Ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone Suspended From Labour for One Year Over Hitler-Zionist Comments

Despite ban, Jewish group blasts Labour for falling short of expelling Livingstone, saying they were 'extremely disappointed and shocked.'

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone leaves after appearing on the LBC radio station in London, Britain, April 30, 2016.
NEIL HALL/REUTERS

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been banned from the British Labour party for a year over comments made in 2016 in which he said "Hitler was Zionist," The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Livingstone was temporarily suspended from the Labour Party following an April 2016 interview with BBC radio in which he 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.”

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

 The umbrella group, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), blasted the party for falling short of expelling Livingstone, saying they were "extremely disappointed and shocked" at the decision they said "highlights Labour’s disregard for repairing the historic, but broken relationship with the Jewish community.

"Over a 40 year career, Mr. Livingstone has angered members of the Jewish community through a series of comments, goading and ‘Jew-baiting’. He has made a number of arrogant assumptions, that at times mimic atrocious anti-Semitic tropes. Throughout his long career he has displayed a pattern of inexcusable behavior that cannot simply be excused as eccentricity or the mutterings of a politician."

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday ahead of the ruling, Livingstone seemed to blame a Jewish newspaper for the incident, saying that "What caused offense were those people who opened the pages of the Jewish Chronicle and saw the claim I said Hitler was a Zionist, the claim I said Jews were the same as Nazis and one week later the article saying I had said that hating Jews in Israel wasn't anti-Semitic," said Livingstone. "None of that is true."

Perhaps most puzzling about his accusation is the fact that Livingstone originally made his controversial comments not to the Jewish Chronicle, but in an interview with the BBC, saying Hitler "was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews"

Just last week, Livingstone made fresh accusations of links between Jews and Nazis on his way into court for a hearing on his controversial remarks, saying that the SS established training camps for German Jews with the intention of preparing them for Palestine.

Ahead of his hearing on Thursday, Livingstone continued saying that "right up until the start of the Second World War," there was "real collaboration" between Jews and Nazis. 

“When the Zionist movement asked the Nazi Government, would they stop Jewish Rabbis doing their sermons in Yiddish and make them do it in Hebrew, he [Hitler] agreed to that. He also passed a law that said the Zionist flag and the Swastika were the only flags that could be flown in Germany," Livingstone continued, according to the report.

“And when, in July 1937, many senior Nazis gathered at their Foreign Offices, saying we should stop sending German Jews to Palestine because it risks creating a Jewish state, a directive comes directly from Hitler saying, ‘no continue with this policy.’"

Days ahead of Thursday's two-day disciplinary hearing, the embattled former mayor defended himself against accusations of anti-Semitism, saying that he did not break any Labour Party rules and is being scrutinized for other reasons. 

"I am being attacked by the right-wing of the Labour Party because I support Palestinian human rights and strongly back our Leader Jeremy Corbyn," Livingstone claimed, adding that he "did not say or suggest that Hitler was a Zionist."