Britain’s Labour Party suspended former London Mayor Ken Livingstone on April 28 for saying that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist.
A Labour Party spokesperson told The Guardian that the action was “for bringing the party into disrepute.” British anti-racism activists and Labour Party politicians are calling for Livingstone’s expulsion.
In an interview with the BBC on April 28, Livingstone 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 comments in support of Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who had been suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 that suggested that Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. Shah apologized on April 26, a day after her comments came to light.
When 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.” Livingstone also said there was a “well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticized Israeli policy as anti-Semitic.”
Livingstone’s remarks come at a sensitive time for the Labour Party, which in recent months has seen the suspension of several members, including at the senior level, for anti-Semitic hate speech that critics say party leader Jeremy Corbyn is not doing enough to stop.
Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who in 2009 referred to Hamas and Hezbollah activists as “friends” after inviting representatives from both terror groups to visit the British Parliament as his guests, is also accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups like Hamas.
“No one can call themselves progressive if they regurgitate the worst ideas of the Nazis and other classic anti-Semites throughout history as many people associated with the Labour party have done recently,” Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said in a statement about Livingstone. He spoke of “a pattern emerging of a party which tolerates at best, and ignores at worst, a groundswell of Jew-hatred.”
John Mann, a Labour lawmaker and a central figure in the fight against anti-Semitism in Britain, confronted Livingstone during the morning of April 28 and shouted at him, calling him a “disgrace” and a “Nazi apologist.” Mann has called for Livingstone to be suspended from the Labour Party.
Mann told Sky News that Livingstone’s comments were “insane,” branded him an “anti-Semite,” and said the Livingstone had “gone totally mad.”
Sadiq Kahn, the Labour Party’s contender in the London mayoral elections, joined a growing chorus of Labour Party politicians calling for Livingstone’s expulsion.
Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism watchdog, said in a statement: “The Labour Party must expel Ken Livingstone. Today he has claimed that Hitler was a Zionist and that anti-Semitism is not racism. Enough is enough. He should not be suspended, he should be expelled today.”
Livingstone had served as London’s mayor twice: once from 1981 to 1986 and again in 2000 to 2008.