The new leader of Britain's opposition Labor Party Jeremy Corbyn.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday denied that his party was facing a crisis over anti-Semitism after its veteran member and former London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended over remarks aligning Hilter with Zionism.
The UK opposition party's leader rejected the notion that Labor was failing to tackle anti-Semitism within its ranks despite a string of recent incidents in which party members and activists have been accused of anti-Semitic speech.
The day before the episode involving Livingstone, Labor lawmaker Naz Shah
was also suspended over a revealed Facebook post from 2014 that suggested relocating Israel to the US.
Labor suspended Livingstone after he made remarks on Hitler being a Zionist in defense of Shah.
"Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labor Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the Party into disrepute," the Labor Party said in a statement.
It said another lawmaker, John Mann, had been summoned over his behavior after he was filmed shouting "You've lost it" at Livingstone and accusing him of being a "Nazi apologist" over the former mayor's comments that Hitler had supported Zionism "before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews".
UK Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the comments, saying anti-Semitism, like racism, was unacceptable. "It is quite clear that the Labor Party has a problem with anti-Semitism."
Jewish leaders said the party should introduce a zero-tolerance policy against anti-Semitism, and some Labor lawmakers, including the party's candidate for mayor in an election next week, distanced themselves from Livingstone.
Mark Regev, Israel's ambassador to Britain, tweeted after Livingstone's suspension: "Not sure which is worse, deliberately distorting Hitler's goals or accusing his Jewish victims of being his partners."
The former mayor made his comments while mounting a defense for another lawmaker, Naz Shah, 42, who in 2014 had expressed views on Facebook supporting the relocation of Israel to the United States.
Shah was "administratively suspended" from the party on Wednesday pending investigation and has apologized for her remarks.
In an interview with BBC London, Livingstone said neither Shah nor the Labor Party were anti-Semitic.
"I've heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians, but I've never heard someone be anti-Semitic," 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 - this before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews."
The Labor party has been struggling to pull together after Corbyn swept into the leadership in September on a wave of enthusiasm, particularly among younger members, for change and an end to 'establishment politics'.
Corbyn's views have often jarred with many Labor lawmakers in parliament, however, dividing the party at a time when it is trying to hold the government, which is also deeply split over Britain's membership of the European Union, to account.
Corbyn's leadership has been marred by rows over issues including national security and foreign policy that some lawmakers fear could keep the party out of power for more than a decade. Local elections next week could fuel discontent with Corbyn if Labor loses seats.