|"Holocaust Inversion" in Germany
"....In February 2005, Ken Livingstone, then the mayor of London, became involved in an apparently trivial late night argument with a reporter after a party at City Hall. Oliver Finegold asked him how the party had been. Livingstone was angry because he felt Finegold was intruding. After a little banter to and fro, in which the reporter said that he was only trying to do his job, Livingstone retorted by asking him whether he had previously been a ‘German war criminal’. Finegold replied that he hadn’t, and that he was Jewish, and that he was offended by the suggestion. Livingstone went on to insist that Finegold was behaving just like a ‘German war criminal’, that his newspaper, The Standard, ‘was a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots’ and that it had a record of supporting Fascism.
Instead of apologizing for his comment in the sober light of day, Livingstone responded to charges of antisemitism which had been made in relation to the Finegold affair with the following words:
‘For far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been.’ (Livingstone 2006)
This is a formulation which often appears in response to an accusation of antisemitism, which I have called The Livingstone Formulation (Hirsh 2007; 2010). It is a rhetorical device which enables the user to refuse to engage with the charge made. It is a mirror which bounces back an accusation of antisemitism against anybody who makes it. It contains a counter-charge of dishonest Jewish (or ‘Zionist’) conspiracy.
The Livingstone Formulation does two things. Firstly, it denies the distinction between criticism of Israel on the one hand, which is widely accepted as being legitimate, and discourse and action about which, by contrast, there is concern relating to its alleged connection to antisemitism, on the other. The Livingstone Formulation conflates everything, both criticism of Israel but also other things which are allegedly not so legitimate, such as repeatedly insulting a Jewish reporter by comparing him to a Nazi, into the category of legitimate criticism of Israel.
Secondly, the Livingstone Formulation does not simply accuse anyone who raises the issue of contemporary antisemitism of being wrong, it also accuses them of bad faith: ‘the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical…’ [my italics]. Not an honest mistake, but a secret, common plan to try to de-legitimize criticism by means of an instrumental use of a charge of antisemitism. This is an allegation of malicious intent made against the (unspecified) people who raise concerns about antisemitism. It is not possible to ‘use’ ‘the accusation of antisemitism’ in order to delegitimize criticism of Israel, without dishonest intent.
The raising of the issue of antisemitism is often claimed to be an ad hominem attack, an accusation of antisemitic intent on the part of the ‘critic of Israel’. Yet while there is fierce resistance to the possibility of unintended antisemitism, those who employ the Livingstone Formulation accuse those who raise the issue of antisemitism of doing so with malicious intent and of knowing that their concerns are not justified...."Read the full article here
British lawyer and academic Lesley Klaff is associate editor of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism and serves on both the Academic Advisory Board of the Louis D Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. She has written an article titled "Holocaust Inversion" in which she cites the "Livingston Formulation":
Regarding one of those British LibDem parliamentarians who just can't seem to avoid slurring Jews and Israel, she observes at the end of her article:
"Criticised for his Holocaust Memorial Day comments, David Ward hit back by accusing his critics of bad faith: ‘There is a huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism. And that comes into play very, very quickly and focuses intensely on anyone who’s seen to criticise the State of Israel. And so I end up looking at what happened to me, whether I should use this word, whether I should use that word – and that is winning for them.’
This is an example of ‘The Livingstone Formulation’, a term coined by David Hirsh to refer to the practice of responding to claims of contemporary antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised; in other words, they are ‘playing the antisemitism card.’ Ward’s statement is a perfect illustration of the Livingstone Formulation because while Ward claims that an ad hominem attack is being made on him by a ‘huge operation out there, a machine almost,’ it is, in fact, he who is making an ad hominem attack on those who question him. Rather than a ‘huge operation’ deflecting criticism of Israel, it is actually Ward who is deflecting legitimate concerns about antisemitism in the form of the Holocaust inversion.
By inverting reality and morality, and by recklessly spreading accusations of bad faith, Holocaust Inversion prevents us identifying the changing nature of contemporary antisemitism and is an obstacle to marshalling active resistance to it."Read all of her article on "Holocaust Inversion" here