Former London mayor Ken Livingstone speaks to the media after appearing on the LBC radio station in London, Britain, April 30, 2016.
(photo credit: NEIL HALL/REUTERS)
Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone has described the allegations that antisemitism has taken hold of the UK Labour Party as “lies and smears,” during a speech to an organization that has similarly denied the wave of antisemitic incidents within the party.
During his speech, made last week to the Labour Against the Witch-hunt organization, he said that he had heard only one racist comment from a Labour Party member in his 50 years of membership, and allegations of antisemitism in Labour came from “the right-wing” and the media as part of an effort to discredit party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The Daily Mail originally reported that Livingstone said during his speech that “it’s not antisemitic to hate the Jews of Israel,” but the comment was taken out of context, and Livingstone was in fact quoting what he had been accused of saying.
Livingston resigned from Labour in May 2018 because of the disciplinary process against him for comments he made in 2016 arguing that Hitler supported Zionism and that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis.
The event held last Monday was entitled “Hands Off the Left! Reinstate Chris Williamson! Don’t expel Jackie Walker!” and was designed to support both Williamson, who has been suspended by Labour for saying the party had been “too apologetic” regarding the spate of antisemitic incidents in the party, and Walker, who said in 2016 that “many Jews were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade.”
Livingstone started out by describing what he described as lies against him in the media from the beginning of his political career, and went on to allege that the numerous incidents of antisemitic comments from Labour Party members in recent years were part of a plan to discredit Corbyn.
“It’s 50 years and two months since I joined the Labour Party,” said Livingstone.
“And in all that half a century, I once heard someone say something racist,” he continued, saying the comments were made against black people.
“If you have a genuine socialist leader who is going to transform things for ordinary people and make the bloody corporations pay their fair share of tax – they will do whatever is necessary to stop you,” he continued, in reference to Corbyn and other left-wing leaders. “We need to stop these lies about racism and antisemitism… I say to all those people who want to stop Jeremy from becoming prime minister: have an honest debate about how you don’t agree with his policy. Stop all these lies and smears.”
Livingstone also said that the real damage being caused by the allegations of antisemitism was to the Jewish community, since he said polls show that large numbers of British Jews believe that they would have to leave the country if Labour wins the next election and Corbyn becomes prime minister.
Despite Livingstone’s denials, antisemitic comments and incidents emanate from the Labour Party on a weekly, if not daily basis.
On Friday, the Jewish Chronicle reported that a Labour Party member accused the vice-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, a formal affiliate of the Labour Party, of being “a fifth columnist” for having opposed a motion at a London constituency meeting last week, which gave backing to an MP who has been suspended over allegations of antisemitism against him.
Also last week, a member of a London local council for the Labour Party shared a post which alleged that Israel had supported al-Qaeda and ISIS in order to destabilize Syria, cement its control of the Golan Heights and then exploit oil and gas reserves in the territory.
The councilor has now been suspended by the party pending an investigation.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that a senior aide to Corbyn blocked the suspension of another Labour Party member who has since been arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred against Jews.
That member was one of three people arrested during the course of March by the Metropolitan Police of London on allegations of incitement to racial hatred against Jews, who were all Labour members when they committed the alleged criminal acts.
These recent incidents follow innumerable similar comments made by Labour Party members in recent years, including a Labour Party member posting on Facebook about a Jewish ritual of Jews drinking blood; another member who tweeted that there were still “plenty shekels to be wrung out of the memory of the Holocaust;” and a Labour councilwoman saying that Jewish newspapers might be working for the Mossad.
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