London mayoral contender Ken Livingstone’s comments to a group of Jewish Labor
supporters – in which he implied that Jews are wealthy so would not vote for him
– has resulted in a prominent Jewish journalist and group of Jewish Labor
supporters vowing to not vote for him.
Last week, Labor candidate
Livingstone told a meeting of Jewish Labor supporters that he does not expect
Jewish Londoners to vote for him in the May 3 election, as the richer a person
is, the less likely he is to vote for the Left. (Incumbent Conservative Boris
Johnson is seeking reelection for a second term. Brian Paddick is the Liberal
Livingstone, who was mayor of London from 2000 to 2008,
made the suggestion that as the Jewish community is rich, it would not vote for
On Saturday, he brushed off the comments as a smear against
“I’ve just been subject to a smear campaign from the same sources
who have been doing it for 30 years,” he told the MayorWatch
Explaining what he meant, Livingstone said: “I pointed out that
no ethnic group or religious group votes monolithically and the main defining
issue in how everybody votes is the level of income.
“That’s why I get a
lot of support from poor Jews in Stoke Newington. I get much less support in
Mrs. Thatcher’s old constituency in Finchley. That isn’t to say that’s anything
to do with any particular Jewish group, every social group is primarily, its
voting patterns is determined by income levels,” Livingstone told the
His comments prompted a group of Jewish Labor supporters to
write to party leader Ed Miliband to convey their concerns with him.
the letter, they said that Livingstone uses “Zionist,” “Jewish” and “Israeli”
interchangeably and in a pejorative manner.
“These words are not
interchangeable and to do so is highly offensive, particularly when repeated
over and again as was done,” the letter said.
At the meeting, which was
called by the supporters to look for ways in which Livingstone could connect
with the Jewish community, he said: “I am not against Israel, I am against
In the letter to Miliband, the Jewish Labor supporters said
that his language, when they discussed the Jewish community, Israel and Zionism,
was close to classic anti-Semitism.
“Ken determines Jews as a religious
group, but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people, and did not
respond on this, other than to say that as an atheist he found this hard to
comprehend. In the same way that black, Irish and women groups are afforded the
right to determine their own identity, many of us feel that he doesn’t afford
Jews that right.
“Just as we do not have a right to tell Ken what he
thinks about Israel despite our many disagreements, he doesn’t have the right to
define who we believe we are,” the letter stated.
On Friday, respected
Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland said he would no longer support
Livingstone because he shows a too-hardened heart to the Jewish community while
being consistently warm to other communities.
“This week he went to
Finsbury Park mosque, quoted Muhammad’s final sermon and expressed the hope that
as mayor he would educate Londoners in the teachings of Islam – he doesn’t care
what hurt he causes Jews,” Freedland said.
While he said that he does not
believe that Livingstone is a racist, Freedland said: “When it comes to this one
group of Londoners and their predicaments, their hopes and anxieties, he simply
“I can no longer do what I and others did in 2008, putting
to one side the statements, insults and gestures that had offended me, my fellow
Jews and – one hopes – every Londoner who abhors prejudice,” Freedland
The former London mayor is a seasoned anti-Israel antagonist who
has clashed with the Jewish community many times.
In 2005, he likened a
Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard and in 2006, he suggested
that two Jewish businessmen should go back to Iran and see if they could do
better under the ayatollahs. Property developers David and Simon Reuben were
born in India.
Livingstone also embraced the radical cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who supports suicide
bombing of Israeli civilians, female genital mutilation and the murder of
Livingstone has also presented on Press TV, the Iranian
regime’s news portal.
In the letter, the Labor supporters said it seemed
that Livingstone was aligning himself with the politics of the Muslim
Brotherhood and Iranian regime, “whilst turning a blind eye to Islamist
anti-Semitism, misogynism and homophobia.”
A YouGov poll showed last week
that almost one in three Labor supporters are refusing to back the party’s
candidate for mayor; 31% say they will not vote for him.