Jewish left withdraw support for London mayor contender

London mayoral candidate said Jews are too rich to vote for him.

Former mayor of London Ken Livingston 370 (R) (photo credit: David Moir / Reuters)
Former mayor of London Ken Livingston 370 (R)
(photo credit: David Moir / Reuters)
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 Democrat candidate.)
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 him.
On Saturday, he brushed off the comments as a smear against him.
“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 website.
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 website.
His comments prompted a group of Jewish Labor supporters to write to party leader Ed Miliband to convey their concerns with him.
In 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 Zionists.”
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 doesn’t care.
“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 said.
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 homosexuals.
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.