After Linking Hitler and Zionism, ex-London Mayor Livingstone Muses Over His 'Jewish Roots'

Revealing that his grandmother's name was Zona – prostitute in Hebrew – Livingstone says Jewish lawmaker Greville Janner used to speculate whether he was also part of the tribe.

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

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was recently suspended from Britain’s Labour Party for saying that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism, said he may have Jewish roots.

Livingstone told the London-based Jewish Chronicle newspaper that his maternal grandmother had what he was told was a Jewish last name.

He said that the late Jewish Labour lawmaker Greville Janner used to drive him home from Parliament at night.

“We would chat away about the Middle East. He would speculate about whether or not I was Jewish because my grandmother’s name was Zona,” Livingstone told The Jewish Chronicle.

“Zona” is the Hebrew word for prostitute.

“I have lots of Jewish friends and I always have. I have had members of the Board of Deputies round for parties,” he told the Chronicle, adding, "When I went to Israel and stopped by a kibbutz, I felt completely at home there. Everyone was a leftie like me.”

Livingstone spoke to the newspaper after testifying before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on anti-Semitism. During last week’s hearing he ignored repeated offers from committee members to retract the claim he made in an April radio interview, the Chronicle reported. Instead he doubled down on the remarks.

In a radio interview with the BBC, Livingstone had said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

He made the remarks in defense of Labour Party lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 suggesting that Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. Days later, Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark

Livingstone served as mayor twice, from 1981 to 1986 and from 2000 to 2008.

He told the Chronicle his suspension from the Labour Party is due to the fact that he supports party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has come under fire for not doing enough to curb anti-Semitism in the party.

“It’s not really about anti-Semitism; it’s just about undermining Jeremy because I am one of Jeremy’s key supporters. All I want to focus on is Jeremy’s economic policies. Jeremy and I have been campaigning side by side for 45 years,” he said.

Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends” after inviting representatives from both terrorist groups to visit the British Parliament as his guests, is also accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups such as Hamas.