After Linking Hitler and Zionism, ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone Condemns anti-Semitism

Ken Livingstone strikes a conciliatory tone two months after claim that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism led to his suspension from Labour Party. 'I detest racism and condemn anti-Semitism,' he writes.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone speaking to the media after appearing on the LBC radio station in London, Britain, April 30, 2016.
Reuters, Neil Hall

The controversial former mayor of London condemned anti-Semitism on Tuesday, ahead of an appearance in Parliament, the U.K.'s Evening Standard has reported.

In an interview with BBC in April, Livingstone said that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”

The Labour party suspended him in response to his comments. Livingstone initially doubled down, telling The Guardian that he would use the 1983 book "Zionism in the Age of the Dictators" by American Marxist Lenni Brenner to fight his suspension and defend his claim regarding Hitler and Zionism. He also said his statement was similar to those made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last October, according to which Hitler had supported Jewish immigration to 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 had told London-based LBC radio. 

In his written statement to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee ahead of his appearance on Tuesday, Livingstone's tone was decidedly different. "I detest racism and condemn anti-Semitism," he wrote, as quoted by the Evening Standard. "Indeed my political career has totally opposed any such views concerning any religious or ethnic group."

Livingston raised his concerns over what he described as "a rise of physical and verbal attacks in London motivated by racism and faith hate" as well as the "utterly deplorable" doubling in recorded anti-Semitic hate crimes between 2010 and 2015.

He did try to explain the rise in anti-Semitism by linking it with Britain's military involvement in the Middle East, according to the Standard. He said the Community Security Trust had reported that "trigger events" in the Middle East are liable to trigger an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom, the Standard reported.

Livingstone relied on his record as mayor to defend himself against charges of anti-Semitism. He cited his promotion of events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, an Anne Frank exhibition at City Hall, a Jewish festival in Trafalgar Square and menorah lighting ceremonies in celebration of Hanukkah.

He also stressed that criticizing some of Israel's actions "has nothing to do with anti-Semitism."

"Racism serves as the cutting edge of the most reactionary movements," he said. "An ideology that starts by declaring one human being inferior to another is the slope whose end is at Auschwitz. I totally reject such a view of Jews, black people or any other group."