LONDON: Britain’s opposition Labour Party suspended on Thursday former London mayor Ken Livingstone after he said Adolf Hitler supported Zionism, in a furious row over anti-Semitism that is dividing the party.
“Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the party into disrepute,” a Labour spokesman said.
Livingstone told BBC radio: “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
“I have been in the Labour Party for 40 years and I have never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. I have heard a lot of criticism for the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians, but I have never heard someone be anti-Semitic,” he added.
Ken Livingstone defends Naz Shah who was suspended earlier
He was defending Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended on Wednesday for sharing allegedly anti-Semitic posts on social media.
Shah shared a graphic of Israel superimposed onto the United States under the words “Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict — Relocate Israel into United States”, adding the comment: “Problem solved.”
She also used the hashtag #IsraelApartheid above a quote saying “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal”.
There are growing claims that the party under veteran socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn has a problem in which criticism of Israel has strayed into anti-Semitism, but his defenders claim much of the row is politically motivated.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “clear that the Labour Party” had an anti-Semitism problem.
“They have got to recognise that anti-Semitism is like racism, it is unacceptable in a modern political party and every political party facing this problem has got to deal with it,” he said.
More than 20 Labour MPs had earlier called on Corbyn to suspend Livingstone following his BBC interview.
Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate to become the next London mayor, called the remarks “appalling and inexcusable”, adding: “There must be no place for this in our party.”
Backbench MP John Mann confronted Livingstone in a face-to-face row caught on camera, calling him a “Nazi apologist” and a “disgusting racist”.
Livingstone accused Mann of going “completely over the top”. Former party leadership contender Liz Kendall earlier tweeted that “Ken Livingstone should be suspended”.
She is one of many critics of Livingstone who hail from Labour’s centrist rump, exposing the party’s deeper ideological rifts.
Left-wing firebrand politician George Galloway said in a YouTube posting that the row was part of a leadership coup.
“They are all out to get Ken but just like with Naz Shah, the real target is Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.
Livingstone is currently standing again for Labour’s National Executive Committee — the party’s governing body — and is unlikely to be able to run if he is not reinstated before nominations for the election close next month, depriving Corbyn of a key ally in the divided body.
Livingstone — known as ‘Red Ken’ by the British media due to his far-left views — has been a colourful and controversial personality in British politics for decades.
In 2005, he compared a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard and was suspended from office as the mayor of London.
Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2016