9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Israel and Zionism I Building II, C5.05

The Livingstone Formulation: the defensive counter-accusation that a charge of antisemitism is made dishonestly by the "Israel Lobby" in order to de-legitimize criticism of Israel

Ken Livingstone wrote: "for far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government". [1]

The Livingstone Formulation is a common and ad hominem response to an accusation of antisemitism. A substitute for an attempt to consider or to rebut the substance of an accusation of antisemitism, it functions instead to neutralize it by ascribing malicious motivation to the person who raises the issue of antisemitism. It is a rhetorical device which treats disproportional, irrational or phobic hostility to Israel as though they were criticism of Israeli policy. It can also conflate antisemitism, variants of the blood libel and/or variants of conspiracy theory into criticism of Israeli policy.

While antisemitism is often not produced self-consciously, the Livingstone Formulation accuses the person who raises the issue of antisemitism of doing so dishonestly and self-consciously rather than mistakenly. It claims that the accuser knows that their accusation is false but makes it anyway. Since many apparently unconnected people are accused of this same dishonesty, the charge is a charge of Jewish or "Zionist" conspiracy.

This paper will present and analyse a large number of instances of the Livingstone Formulation, demonstrating that its key elements, (a) conflation of all kinds of hostility into "criticism" and (b) collective 'Zionist' dishonesty in the malicious use of the charge of antisemitism, are often present in public discourse around that proportion of antisemitism which is related to disproportional hostility to Israel.

[1] Ken Livingstone, "An attack on voters' rights", The Guardian, Wednesday 1 March 2006, London, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/mar/01/society.london, downloaded 4 March 2009