Ken Livingstone has claimed Jewish support for Israel is in decline – and that the “vast majority” of Holocaust survivors favoured moving to America rather than Palestine after the liberation of the Nazi death camps.
The former Mayor of London made the comment on a Press TV debate titled “Has the Holocaust been exploited to oppress others?”, which was aired by the Iranian-state backed channel on Holocaust Memorial Day.
On the programme, Mr Livingstone, who is suspended from the Labour Party over his claim that Hitler backed Zionism, engaged in controversial discussion with host Roshan Muhammed Salih and a series of telephone callers.
Responding to a female caller who questioned whether six million Jews had died in the Holocaust, and who said she made no distinction between Zionism and Judaism, Mr Livingstone said: “Forty years ago I represented on the Greater London Council Stoke Newington, which has the largest Orthodox Jewish community I think anywhere in Europe.
“And a large number of those were strong critics of Israel – they did not believe the Israeli state should have been created.
“Frankly, the number of Jews identifying with Zionism, still a majority, but much less than it was before Netanyahu’s government came to power.
“You can’t just say every Jew is a Zionist. I know many that aren’t. “
Responding to a suggestion by Mr Salih that the Holocaust was used by Israel to make it “untouchable”, Mr Livingstone claimed the “problem” at the end of the Second World War revolved around America’s failure to allow the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution to flee there.
He said: “At the end of the war you had many Holocaust survivors, a lot liberated out of Auschwitz.
“Part of the problem was, I would have thought the majority, perhaps the vast majority of them , their hope would have been ‘can we go to America where we would have been safe?’
“I don’t think the overwhelming majority would have wanted to go to what was then Palestine. But they weren’t given that choice. America didn’t want them. “
Mr Livingstone also claimed that what “defined” the Holocaust was that it “happened at a time when there was filming, media”.
He added: “Many similar crimes in the past are just historical and written up.
“Many other crimes taking place now in Burma, Myanmar – the journalists aren’t allowed in, television isn’t there we aren’t seeing it.
“But for my generation, born in 1945, we grew up seeing perhaps the greatest human crime in history.
“Over a third of the entire Jewish community in the world were murdered by Hitler.”
At one stage, pro-Israeli activist and blogger Richard Millett called into the show and raised the issue of the one million Jews driven out of Arab countries following the creation of Jewish state in 1948.
Mr Millett was asked by host Mr Salih if he considered Mr Livingstone to be an antisemite. Mr Millett responded that he considered the former London Mayor to be “deeply naive and out of synch with the history of the Jewish people”.
Responding to the Mr Millett, Mr Livingstone said:” Do you think the Jews would have been driven out of Morocco and all the other predominantly Arab countries they were living in if it hadn’t had the terrible war in 1948 about the creation of Israel and that exodus of 700,000 [Palestinians].
“That’s what triggered the wave of attacks on Jews in Arab countries, isn’t it?”
The former Mayor of London also repeated his claim over Hitler and Zionism.
Mr Livingstone told viewers: ”I mean Hitler wanted to eliminate every Jew who was living inside Germany and that’s what he did in the 1930s. He worked with the Zionist movement to move... to get 60,000 to go. But it was about half a million and then he changed his policy and went for genocide. “
During the broadcast, which was recorded last week ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Salih questioned the number of Jews who perished in the Shoah. He said: "I don't know whether six million, or four million died or two million died."
He also spoke of the “industry” that has built up around the Holocaust.