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Ken Livingstone suspended for another year by Labour over Hitler supported Zionism remarks

Jewish groups angered by the Labour NCC decision not to expel the former Mayor of London from the party

    Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour Party for another year after claiming that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s.

    Labour’s disciplinary panel ruled on Tuesday evening that the former Mayor of London should not, as widely expected, be expelled from the party over the comments. Instead he was suspended for two years - but has already served one. Mr Livingstone had claimed he had been suspended from Labour for telling the "truth".

    The 71-year-old emerged from the hearing in Westminster refusing to apologise over his comments, which were made during a BBC Radio London interview last April. 

    While the outcome is a severe blow to Mr Livingstone, the decision not to expel him has already been met with dismay both by Jewish organisations and his wider critics within the party, who had deemed his removal essential. 

    In a statement Mr Livingstone claimed that the party had extended his suspension because of his “political views not because I have done anything to harm the Labour Party.”

    He added:”I will be launching a campaign to overturn my suspension of Party membership. The Labour Party’s disciplinary process was not in accord with natural justice in a number of ways.”

    Figures across the Jewish community were quick to condemn the decision.

    Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: "This was a chance for the Labour Party to show that it would not tolerate wilful and unapologetic baiting of the Jewish community, by shamefully using the Holocaust as a tool with which to inflict the maximum amount of offence.

    "Worryingly, the party has yet again failed to show that it is sufficiently serious about tackling the scourge of antisemitism.

    "The Labour Party has failed the Jewish community, it has failed its members and it has failed all those who believe in zero tolerance of antisemitism."

    The Jewish Leadership Council said the move was "deeply shocking".

    It added: "The decision by the Labour Party not to expel Ken Livingstone highlights Labour’s disregard for repairing the historic, but broken relationship with the Jewish community.

    “Mr Livingstone’s antagonistic attitude towards the Jewish community has been longstanding and has had a huge impact on Jewish people.about Jews but also the creation of the State of Israel and Zionism. "

    In a statement the Jewish Labour Movement, whose chair Jeremy Newmark had given evidence to the hearing, said the decision was a “betrayal of our party’s values” and added that the one year suspension is “insufficient for a party that claims zero tolerance on antisemitism.”

    Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust added his organisation's dismay. He said: "CST is deeply disappointed that Ken Livingstone has been allowed to remain a member of the Labour Party, despite making so many grossly offensive comments that did such damage to the party’s relationship with the Jewish community. This decision strengthens real antisemites and their fellow travellers, and will leave the Jewish community less confident than ever that Labour is serious in dealing with antisemitism."In an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday morning ,Mr Livingstone had attempted to blame the Jewish Chronicle who he said had misreported his comments and sparked the row.

    Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, condemned the Labour Party for its failure to expel Mr Livingstone.

    He said: "Relations between Labour and the Jewish community have reached a new all-time low... All we can conclude from this hopelessly wrong decision is that the party has an enduring problem with antisemitism to which it is unwilling to face up."

    Luciana Berger, Labour MP and former Shadow Cabinet member, also described the decision as a "new low".

    "Why is antisemitism being treated differently from any other form of racism," she said.

    Joan Ryan MP, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: "Ken Livingstone has made Nazi comparisons, repeatedly misrepresented the meaning of Zionism and appears to take a twisted delight in offending Jews. It is disgraceful that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party seems to have decided - by allowing him to remain a member  - that such behaviour is  acceptable.

    "Coupled with its failure to tackle serious allegations of antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club and last year’s discredited Chakrabarti report, this decision means that Labour’s condemnations of antisemitism will ring even more hollow than they previously did."

    Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, described the decision as "a slap on the wrist for a serial offender".

    She said: "That a mainstream political party would consider these views to be welcome within their ranks simply demonstrates that antisemitism is not taken as seriously as all other forms of racism and prejudice."

    Paul Charney, chairman of the Zionist Federation, said: "The fact that Ken Livingstone remains a suspended member of the Labour Party and was not expelled at today's hearing serves only to drive a larger and more robust wedge between our Jewish community and the Labour Party.

    "The comments made by Mr Livingstone regarding Hitler and Zionism bare no resemblance to the truth and are a disgrace to the values he and his party apparently hold. Where Labour had an opportunity to make clear that antisemitic slurs made by Livingstone have no place within our society, they instead showed that when it comes to Jews, liberal standards are readily set aside."

    Mr Livingstone was initially suspended from the Labour Party when the row erupted in April last year. He had been defending MP Naz Shah over claims that she had made antisemitic social media posts.

    The comments that sparked the row were made to Vanessa Feltz at BBC London. The former mayor said then: "When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."

    Labour MP John Mann then labelled Mr Livingstone a “Nazi apologist” after confronting him on the stairs of the BBC’s Millbank office in Westminster.

    Labour’s national constitutional committee - a quasi-judicial body which has the power to expel members – had deliberated over Mr Livingstone’s fate since last Thursday.

    The NCC has 11 members – long-time Labour activists, councillors and trade union representatives – and is chaired by Rose Burley, a Labour member for 52 years, who presided over the expulsion of George Galloway.

    Mr Livingstone had been represented by barrister Michael Mansfield QC during the hearing while Labour’s NCC was represented by Clive Sheldon QC.

    The former Mayor of London had enlisted five anti-Zionist Jewish Labour members to back him, including LSE professor Jonathan Rosenhead, the founder of the campaign to boycott Israeli universities.

    It is not the first time he has become embroiled in an antisemitism row. In 2006 a High Court judge said he made "unnecessarily offensive" and "indefensible" remarks likening a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard. But he was cleared of bringing the office of mayor into disrepute.

    He also told Jewish property developers to “go back to Iran" (a nation notorious for its hatred of Israel) and "try their luck”.

    Mr Livingstone had earned the tag "Red Ken" through his hard-left leadership of the Greater London Council, which he led from 1981.

    He stood for Labour leadership on a far-left platform in 1992 and 1994, and became a vocal critic of Tony Blair’s New Labour project. He also found himself regularly clashing with Britain’s Jewish community – with his anti-Zionist beliefs regularly high up on his agenda.

     

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