In London, anti-Livingstone Group Advises: Say 'Lo' to Ken

Grass-roots group mounts campaign against controversial mayor, who has been termed anti-Semitic.

R. J. Brodsky
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R. J. Brodsky

Londoner Mark Rivlin is fed up with his mayor, Ken Livingstone.

A string of public utterances has left Livingstone open to charges of anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel, and insensitivity to Holocaust survivors. Livingstone also stirred controversy when he

In response, Rivlin has begun a grass-roots campaign to counter Livingstone, with bumper stickers bearing the slogan "Say Lo [No in Hebrew] to Ken [Yes in Hebrew]."

Perhaps

"I dislike the mayor of London on a personal level," Rivlin said. "I don't like what he says about the Jewish people. I don't like what he says about Israel. The only way to get back at him is for the Jewish people who don't like what he says, to make a stand."

In the most recent imbroglio, Livingstone accused wealthy London property developers David and Simon Reuben of endangering a £4 billion Olympic city development in which they have a 50 percent stake. The Reuben brothers were born in India to Jewish parents of Iraqi decent.

"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," Mayor Livingstone told a March 21 news conference.

When the growing chorus for a Livingstone apology reached a crescendo two days later, the mayor apologized - to the Iranian people. "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," Livingstone explained, "I wasn't meaning to be offensive to the people of Iran."

It?s not just the latest comments that have Mark Rivlin ?incensed,? it is the cumulative effect of the mayor?s actions since the July 2005 London bombings that have him printing boxes of bumper stickers telling Londoners to say no to Ken.

?This whole business with Sheikh Qaradawi, who he invited over, antagonized both the Jewish community and also the very sizable gay community in London,? Rivlin explained.

Sheikh Qaradawi grew up in Egypt, where he was arrested several times because of his activities in the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States has barred his entry since 1999 due to his long-time advocacy for violence against America.

Qaradawi uses Islam to justify the participation of women in suicide bombings. ?When necessary, she may take of her Hijab in order to carry out the operation, for she is going to die in the cause of Allah and not to show off her beauty or uncover her hair,? he elaborated in March 2004 on his Web Site, IslamOnline.

?Look for the Zionists behind every disaster,? Qaradawi alleged in a 2004 interview with the Qatar-based newspaper, Al-Sharq. ?We have found their fingers in Darfur, and their fingers are in Iraq and Kashmir. Everywhere where the Muslims can be hurt ? you will find them there.?

Mayor Livingstone invited Qaradawi to London as his ?honored guest? following the London attacks, citing the Sheikh?s progressive views in Islam and his opposition to the London suicide bombings.

Anti-Israel or Anti-Semitic? "For far too long the accusation of anti-Semitism has been used against anybody who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government," Livingstone responded in a statement released on February 28, following the decision to stay his suspension over his comments that likened the Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.

The mayor has previously compared Israel's Likud party to Hamas as, "two sides of the same coin," and has accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing."

In 2004, he suggested that Ariel Sharon was "a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office." He later elaborated that he "would like to see Ariel Sharon locked up in the next cell to Slobodan Milosevic."

In the wake of the London attacks, the mayor not only condemned suicide bombers, but also denounced ?those governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance their foreign policy,? in reference to Israel.

It is Livingstone?s version of a ?meaningful debate? that has many Jewish Londoners, including Mark Rivlin, up in arms.

?Hopefully we are going to get a lot of interest from the Jewish people and Israeli people in London to buy the sticker and show the mayor what we think of him,? Rivlin explained. ?I would like the Jewish people of London to show that they have the potential for a voice. The sticker is a voice; it says something.

The ?Say Lo to Ken? stickers cost £1, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to Etgarim, an Israeli disability sports charity.

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