London mayor cleared of anti-Semitic comment

Report says Livingstone did not know that David and Simon Reuben were Jewish.

livingstone ken 88 298 (photo credit: Associated Press)
livingstone ken 88 298
(photo credit: Associated Press)
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been cleared of charges of anti-Semitism over remarks made in March to two Jewish developers, telling them they should go back to where they came from. A report presented to a meeting Tuesday of the Greater London Authority (GLA) standards committee concluded that Livingstone's remarks could not have been anti-Semitic, as he did not know that David and Simon Reuben were Jewish. At a March 21 press conference, Livingstone expressed frustration with the pace of the development of the 4 billion Olympic City in East London under construction for the 2012 Olympic Games. Responding to a question about the Reuben brothers, property developers behind the project, Livingstone said, "Perhaps if they're not happy, they can always go back [to their own country] and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs." Asked by reporters to clarify his remarks, the mayor said, "If they're not happy here, they can go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs if they don't like the planning regime or my approach." Residents of Britain for 40 years, the Reuben brothers were born in Bombay to Iraqi Jewish parents. The following day, the mayor returned to the attack. The foreign-born Jewish capitalists were the "main impediment" to the successful completion of the Olympic City project, he charged. "I would offer a complete apology to the people of Iran to the suggestion that they may be linked in any way to the Reuben brothers. I wasn't meaning to be offensive to the people of Iran," Livingstone said. A spokesman for the Reuben brothers told the Post that they did not see the mayor's remarks as anti-Semitic, and declined to pursue the matter. However, London resident Barrie Segal filed a complaint, charging the mayor with violating the GLA's Code of Conduct for standards of public decorum. In his report, the GLA's investigator, Peter Keith-Lucas, wrote, "Livingstone's intentions" were to "act robustly" in his dispute with the Reubens. "I conclude that this was a proper purpose and that Livingstone's criticisms were proportionate to this purpose." The report also found that the mayor's comments were "reasonable in the circumstances." "Livingstone's remarks cannot have been anti-Semitic in the sense of being directed towards the Reuben brothers on account of their being Jewish, as Livingstone did not at the time believe them to be Jewish," the report said. The chief executive officer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jon Benjamin, told the Post he was surprised by the decision. "The mayor's comments regarding the Reuben brothers were inexcusable," he said. "It is remarkable that anyone can accept the suggestion that he did not know that they were Jewish; but even if that is true, it is still unacceptable to tell someone who immigrated to this country 40 or more years ago that they should 'go back to where they came from.'" The dispute that prompted the mayor's remarks was resolved last week after an Australian developer purchased the Reubens's stake in the Olympic City project for 140 million pounds.