Former London mayor Ken Livingstone defends himself against anti-Semitism accusations

(JTA) – Ahead of a British Labour Party disciplinary hearing, former London mayor Ken Livingstone has defended himself against accusations of anti-Semitism.

He also denied saying that Hitler was a Zionist, but said that he just claimed that Nazi policy “had the effect of supporting” Zionism.

Livingstone on Tuesday posted a 17-page summary of the defence he will present later in the week before the party’s National Constitutional Committee.

He was suspended from the party following an April 2016 interview with BBC radio in which he said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

Livingstone made the remarks in defense of Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 suggesting Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. She apologized a day after the remarks came to light.

Asked during the interview whether he regarded her statement as anti-Semitic, Livingstone said, “No, it’s completely over the top, but it’s not anti-Semitic.”

After making the original comments in April, Livingstone was suspended from Labour amid accusations that the party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had not done enough to curb rampant anti-Semitism among party members.

Livingstone has defended his statements several times since making them.

A government inquiry into anti-Semitism was launched in April to determine whether anti-Jewish prejudice has increased in the United Kingdom and to assess the particular dangers facing Jews.

Livingstone said in his defence that “I have broken no Labour Party rule. I am being attacked by the right-wing of the Labour Party because I support Palestinian human rights and strongly back our Leader Jeremy Corbyn. There is no real evidence against me, so hopefully the Labour panel will dismiss the charge against me. Only a biased and rigged jury could find against me.”

He added: “I did not say or suggest that Hitler was a Zionist. I did not make any equation of Hitler and Zionism. I neither criticized the Transfer Agreement or the section of Zionism that participated in the Agreement. I did not draw any historical parallels with the situation today anywhere, including with the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Any suggestion that my intention was to draw equivalence between Nazism and Zionism is entirely false. I do not believe that Zionism or the policies of Israeli governments are at all analogous to Nazism. Israeli governments have never had the aim of the systematic extermination of the Palestinian people, in the way Nazism sought the annihilation of the Jews. There is a gigantic difference between Israel’s ethnic cleansing and the Nazis’ extermination policies. As I have said before, my view is that the Holocaust against the Jews is the greatest racial crime of the 20th Century.

Five Jewish members of the Labour Party will speak in Livingstone’s defence at the hearing.

Livingstone served as mayor from 1981 to 1986 and again from 2000 to 2008.

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