‘The Livingstone Formulation’ is a term coined by the academic David Hirsh to refer to the practice of responding to claims of antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised. In other words, the Jews are accused of “playing the antisemitism card”.
On Tuesday, with the Israeli Prime Minister still on his feet addressing a joint session of Congress, the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen, lip curled, tweeted “#NetanyahuSpeech He acknowledges Elie Wiesel in audience. Once again Netanyahu plays the Holocaust card. Don’t repeat mistakes of the past”.
Mr Bowen’s idea is that when an Israeli leader mentions the Holocaust he is being tricksy, manipulative, acting in bad faith, “playing a card” to get narrow advantage in contemporary politics, not really expressing a genuine thought about the Holocaust itself or a genuine fear about a second, nuclear, Holocaust.
And that idea, of the Bad Faith Jew, is unmistakably dripping in the assumptions and myths of classic antisemitism.
Mr Bowen did what only the antisemitic extremists used to do, reduce the invocation of the Holocaust to a common sense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and something to disdain.
Well, the Holocaust happened. It happened to the Jews. And now the Jews are threatened again by a genocidal regime. These are facts.
Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”.
On 23 July 2014, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenai wrote: “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of #Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.”
Benjamin Netanyahu had every right — nay, a duty — as Israel’s Prime Minister, to remind the world what happens when we appease murderous tyrannies that promise genocide against the Jews.
To sneer and attack him for doing so, to dismiss his words as “playing the Holocaust card”; well, it was a bloody disgrace.
Shame on you, Jeremy Bowen.
Prof Alan Johnson is a Senior Research Fellow at Bicom