Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour party after he said Hitler had supported Zionism, during an interview where he defended a colleague accused of anti-semitism.
Livingstone refused to apologize for his comments and said people should not confuse criticizing the Israeli government’s policies with being anti-Semitic after being confronted by Labour MP John Mann, who called him a “Nazi apologist” and claimed he was “rewriting history.”
The row, which was captured on video, broke out after the veteran politician went on BBC Radio London to defend MP Naz Shah who was accused of anti-Semitism over a series of Facebook posts.
“Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel,” Livingstone told BBC Radio London earlier on Thursday. “He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
He later attempted to clarify his comments to the BBC and maintained that Naz Shah was not anti-Semitic: “I’ve heard a lot of people being critical of Israel, but if I was to denounce the South African government, you wouldn’t say I was racist – and one of my worries is this confusion with anti-Semitism and criticising the Israeli government policy undermines the importance of tackling real anti-Semitism.”
I am confused. Is criticism of Israeli gov anti Semitism or hate against Jews? As far as I can see, Ken Livingstone criticised Zionist gov!
— Bilal Mahmood (@bilalmahmooduk) April 28, 2016
Shah apologized fully for promoting a Facebook post from 2014, which suggested relocating Israelis to America, but was later suspended.
Labour MPs including London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan were quick to condemn Livingstone’s comments amid accusations by Prime Minister David Cameron that Labour “has got a problem with anti-Semitism”.
Ken Livingstone’s comments are appalling and inexcusable. There must be no place for this in our Party.
— Sadiq Khan MP (@SadiqKhan) April 28, 2016
Good on @JohnMannMP for confronting Ken Livingstone. Leadership should have listened to John a long time ago.
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) April 28, 2016
Shah has so far declined to comment on Livingstone’s remarks.