The umbrella organization of British Jews on Monday called on the opposition Labour Party to expel Ken Livingstone from its ranks “immediately,” after the controversial former London mayor, a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, again claimed that Adolf Hitler once supported the Zionist movement.
“Hitler’s persecution of the Jews started early in the 1930s,” Board of Deputies Vice President Marie van der Zyl said in a statement. “He expressed his loathing for Zionism in the 1920s. But yet in 2016 Ken Livingstone seems to want to rewrite history to make it seem like Zionism was responsible for the Holocaust, which is as false as it is grotesquely offensive. Every day that Labour does not expel him is a stain on the party.”
Speaking on Vanessa Feltz’s BBC London radio show on Monday morning, Livingstone repeated the claims that he made on her show in April, which led to his suspension from the Labour party.
“After I did the interview with you and I got suspended I couldn’t walk down the street for people stopping me and saying ‘we know what you said is true – don’t give in to them’,” said Livingstone, in comments quoted by the Jewish Chronicle.
“It’s going to be very difficult for them to expel me from the Labour Party when I’ve got this whole sheaf of documents and papers which shows that what I said was true.
“The fact (is) that during the 1930s, Hitler collaborated with the Zionists and supported them because he believed that a solution to his problem – the Jews – was that they should all move to Palestine,” Livingstone said. “Then in the 1940s that changed and he decided on genocide. And that’s the point I made on your program. I’m just surprised that people didn’t check that it was true before they started screaming ‘Nazi apologist.’
When Feltz challenged Livingstone’s sources, he responded: “If you go to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem in Israel, one of the pamphlets they sell to tourists there is one that talks about the deal that was done between Hitler and the Zionists in the 1930s. If you are being given that at the Holocaust Memorial, I think you might suspect it’s true.”
He also denied that the Labour party was anti-Semitic, citing the fact that its previous leader, Ed Miliband, is Jewish. “You are hardly likely to get many anti-Semites backing a party led by someone who is Jewish,” he said.
In June, addressing members of a parliamentary committee tasked with investigating a growing number of anti-Semitic incidents within the Labour party, Livingstone declined to apologize for his initial comments, insisting the claim was historically accurate.
Livingstone said then that he only regretted making the remark because of the “hysterical” response that followed. “I regret using it because it became this hysterical issue,” he said, adding that the backlash “allowed all the anti-Jeremy [Corbyn] people in the party to whip it up into a bigger issue.”
Livingstone said accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against him were the result of his condemnation of Israeli government policies.
“I have had this accusation thrown at me many times. It is only ever thrown at me when I am critical of the Israel government,” he said.
Livingstone’s claims about Hitler and Zionism have been widely dismissed by historians.