British Jewish Leader Slams Livingstone's Remarks as 'Unquestionably anti-Semitic'

'It was much more than offensive language, Ken Livingstone actually said Hitler was some sort of Zionist,' says Board of Deputies of British Jews president Jonathan Arkush.

Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone (center) is surrounded by media in London on April 28, 2016.
Anthony Devlin/PA via AP

Following a stormy few days for British Jews over recurring anti-Semitic comments emanating from the ranks of the Labour Party, a community leader has spoken out against former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone's claim that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was a Zionist.

"What Ken Livingstone deliberately did was to draw an equation between Nazism and Zionism. He therefore crossed a line into what certainly most people would regard as distinctly anti-Semitic," Board of Deputies of British Jews president Jonathan Arkush told BBC Radio 4's Today program.

"It was much more than offensive language, Ken Livingstone actually said Hitler was some sort of Zionist," he added.

Livingstone was suspended from the party on Thursday after saying that "when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."

The former mayor made his remarks as he rushed to the defense of Labour lawmaker Naz Shah following her suspension for anti-Israel comments.

Arkush noted that "Zionism is nothing more and nothing less than the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. To say that is something like Nazism is deeply wrong, deeply offensive and unquestionably anti-Semitic because he doesn't say that about the right of any other people to the right of self-determination."

He pressed party leader Jeremy Corbyn to "become part of the solution by getting a grip" on Labour and reforming the vetting process for its members and lawmakers. Corbyn has been accused of not taking firm enough action against anti-Semitism in the party, allegations which Livingstone has denounced as part of a smear campaign against the party leader.

The controversy surrounding the Labour Party comes as Britain heads to mayoral elections on May 5 in which party candidate for London Sadiq Khan is predicted to win.