Ex-London Mayor Cites Netanyahu's Mufti Comments to Defend 'Zionist Hitler' Claim

Ken Livingstone says he's 'sorry' for furor and any offence his comments might have caused, but stands by their validity, saying Netanyahu's Mufti comments prove as much.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone leaves his home in London, Britain April 29, 2016.
Peter Nichols / Reuters

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone says he's sorry for causing a disruption or any offense with his claim that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism early in his political career — but not sorry for saying so, even citing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's infamous Mufti comments.

"How can I have hurt and offended the Jewish community when the prime minister of Israel said exactly the same thing?" Livingstone said Saturday, adding that he had only made a "statement of fact" concerning Hitler that had been seized on by his political enemies, so called "embittered old Blairites," to stir up trouble.

Livingstone has been suspended from Labour's National Executive Council because of his comments and party leader Jeremy Corbyn has launched an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the party.

Livingstone said his statement was similar to those made by Netanyahu last October, according to which Hitler had supported Jewish immigration mandate-era Palestine until the Mufti of Jerusalem suggested he "burn them" instead.

"Invite the Prime Minister of Israel to come over and defend me, as he clearly agrees with what I said," Livingstone told LBC radio.  

Full interview: Ken Livingstone refuses to back down from 'Zionist Hitler' comments, says sorry for furor caused

“Two days before I did that interview [on Thursday], the prime minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu is addressing the World Zionist Congress, this is the sentence he says: ‘Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews but only to expel them.’ Now, I haven’t seen that in any British paper, I had to get it off the internet.”

“This is what annoys me about the degradation of British journalism, no one does any research,” he said, claiming British media downplayed Netanyahu's statement but zealously reported his.

Livingstone's timeline was off, as Netanyahu made the comments last October. Moreover, Netanyahu never claimed Hitler supported Zionism.

Livnginstone did voice some remorse for the crisis sparked in the Labour party by his comments: “I regret mentioning Hitler because it brought up this nonsense," he told LBC. “I’m sorry to Jeremy [Corbyn] and the Labour party that I am caught up in this but it wasn’t me that started this problem.

 “I’m sorry if anyone was upset by what I said, I’m sorry for that. But it happens to be a statement of fact. I’m sorry that I said that because it’s wasted all this time but I can’t bring myself to deny the truth and I’m not going to do that. I’m sorry it’s caused disruption.”

The uproar over Livingstone's comments has unsettled Labour backers ahead of Thursday's elections, which include choosing a new London mayor.
Livingstone, a close ally of Corbyn, predicted he would ultimately be restored to his executive position.

AP contributed to this report