(JTA) – Jewish groups decried a decision by the Labour Party to temporarily suspend Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, rather than expel him over comments deemed anti-Semitic.
Livingstone, 71, was suspended for a year from his party on Tuesday for 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.”
Prior to the decision, Livingstone was serving a one-year suspension for the comments, which was set to expire this month.
Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Tuesday that “relations between the Labour Party and the Jewish community have reached a new all-time low,” according to the BBC.
The Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella group for various Jewish organizations, said the decision was “deeply shocking” and “highlights Labour’s disregard for repairing the historic, but broken relationship with the Jewish community,” according to The Jewish Chronicle.
The Jewish Labour Movement called the decision a “betrayal of our party’s values.” The one-year suspension, the group said, was “insufficient for a party that claims zero tolerance on anti-Semitism,” according to The Chronicle.
After making the original comments, Livingstone was suspended for a year from Labour amid accusations that the party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had not done enough to curb anti-Semitism among party members.
The ex-mayor has denied saying that Hitler was a Zionist, but said that he just claimed that Nazi policy “had the effect of supporting” Zionism. This week he also blamed The Jewish Chronicle for distorting his remarks, although they were broadcast on the BBC and widely reported elsewhere.
Livingstone told the BBC that he was contemplating whether to challenge the suspension.