Jews are allowed to talk about the Holocaust without being accused of acting in bad faith – Alan Johnson

This piece, by Alan Johnson, is published on

‘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

This piece, by Alan Johnson, is published on

4 Responses to “Jews are allowed to talk about the Holocaust without being accused of acting in bad faith – Alan Johnson”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I wonder how many relatives Jeremy Bowen lost in the Holocaust? None, probably. Thanks to a cousin, who has made himself the family genealogist, I know that, on my father’s side alone, there are several hundred people who were my direct relatives who were murdered by the Nazis and their willing accomplices. This says nothing about their never to be born children, who would have been in my generation or later.

    Jeremy Bowen needs to stop sneering and start talking to proper historians about what happened between 1933 and 1945 in Europe and Russia.

    As the Yiddish proverb goes, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

  2. josephinebacon Says:

    You will be pleased to learn that the previous issue of Private Eye had a skit on Jeremy Bowen, imagining him interviewing some unspeakable dictator of the kind he loves to cosy up to and accepting all denials of human rights abuses, etc. with obsequious praise.

  3. Jacob Arnon (@Jacob_Arnon) Says:

    Jews are the only people not allowed t mention the Holocaust. It seems acceptable by political and social antisemites to argue that Israel is treating the Palestinians the “way the Nazis treated the Jews,” that “Gaza is the Warsaw Ghetto.”

    Why don’t those who, like the BBC, excoriate Jews (for mentioning the Holocaust) not excoriate Africa and Middle Eastern dictators for talking about “Western Colonialism?”
    It’s actually the latter tyrants who excuse their brutal regimes by claiming that it was the Colonialists who were and are the true tyrants.

    Let the Palestinians use other points of comparison which are true to history and not resort to antisemitic cliches.

    We need a Livingston formulation in reverse: only Jews should be allowed to talk about the Holocaust because it is part of their history. (some may use it politically, but so what? All people’s use their history politically. When did he British stop using the Spanish Armada attempted invasion of England as a justification for a huge British Armada of its own?

  4. Porky Scratchings (@ibngibril) Says:

    there is an expedient cowardice at the heart of western political establishments. they fear islamists. so where is the utility in defending Jews or Israel? Sure Jews will complain, but they won’t blow journalists up, murder politicians, turn their kids into walking bombs, commit gang rape etc

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