(photo credit: REUTERS)
Controversial former mayor of London Ron Livingstone told the London based Jewish Chronicle on Saturday that he may have Jewish roots stemming from his mother's side.
On April 28,
Livingstone made the claim after giving testimony during a UK Labour party inquiry earlier this week into allegations that he used anti-Semitic language after claiming Adolf Hitler supported Zionism.
Livingstone gave a radio interview with the BBC and commented: “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.”
He made the remarks in defense of Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 suggesting Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. She apologized hours later after the remarks came to light.
Speaking with The Chronicle
, Livingstone spoke fondly of a number of relationships he's maintained with the Jewish community over the years, including his long-time friendship with Labour MP Lord Greville Janner.
"I have lots of Jewish friends and I always have. I have had members of the Board of Deputies round for parties," Livingstone said.
"Greville Janner used to drive me home from the House of Commons at night. We would chat away about the Middle East. He would speculate about whether or not I was Jewish because my grandmother's name was Zona," he posited.
It was unclear if Livingstone was aware that the Hebrew word Zona translated into English as "prostitute."
Livingstone continued by denying that he was anti-Semitic, commenting that if Labour party permanently suspended him he would "go to court."
"What judge, given the nature of the British legal system, will say: 'You can punish someone for telling the truth'?..."I don't think they will kick me out. I mean, how can they? I will turn up at the final hearing with all these documents. What are we going to do next, suspend people for saying 'two plus two makes four?"'
He added: "It's not really about antisemitism; it's just about undermining [UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn] because I am one of Jeremy's key supporters. All I want to focus on is Jeremy's economic policies. Jeremy and I have been campaigning side by side for 45 years."
Livingstone has repeatedly refused to withdraw his statements concerning Hitler and Zionism
, insisting that the point is a historical fact.
He later added that it was outrageous to suggest that he crossed any lines per Israel and antisemitism in making his comments, The Chronicle
"It is an absolutely ridiculous thing to conflate anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel," he said. "I criticize David Cameron's government, that doesn't mean I'm anti-British."
"I wouldn't get dug into the origins of Zionism and what Zionism really means. Just focus on the actual policies of the Israeli government. I don't focus on the history," he added.