Ken Livingstone has published a statement on alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, in support of his appearance earlier this month before a Home Affairs Committee.
The former London mayor, who is suspended from the party, continued to insist on the factual accuracy of statements made earlier this year about Adolf Hitler’s support for Zionism, and denied “rampant anti-Semitism” prevailed in the Labour Party.
In the document, in which he mentions Hitler 11 times, Livingstone complained the committee had conducted an inquiry into his past rather than into anti-Semitism.
Livingstone also alleged he had not been asked about anti-Semitism, describing committee members as being “obsessed with my views on the history of Germany in the 1930s, Hitler, the Nazis, Israel, Zionism and the Labour Party”, and declaring that none of these topics had anything to do with anti-Semitism today.
He then went on to insist that neither he, or suspended MP for Bradford West Naz Shah, or the Labour Party itself, was anti-Semitic. In particular, he questioned the committee’s definition of anti-Semitism, arguing it should not include hostility to Israel or anti-Zionism, although hostility to Israel has often been criticised as masking deeper anti-Semitic views.
Livingstone continued to insist that his allegation that Hitler supported Zionism, first made during a car-crash interview with Vanessa Feltz, is factually accurate. He cited a 1933 agreement incentivising emigration to Palestine, but added this time that this does not mean he thinks Hitler actually believed in the necessity of establishing a Jewish state.
Equally, he says, he never equated Zionism with Nazism in his critiques of Israel. Although he believes Israel has waged “systematic violence and terror” against Palestinians, including “ethnic cleansing”, he does not believe this is equivalent to Nazism. In the interview with Feltz he quoted Albert Einstein as discouraging the U.S. government from speaking with Likud and comparing them to “the fascists [they] fought in the second world war”.
He also stated that BBC London Radio presenter Vanessa Feltz had brought up Hitler before he did. From transcripts of the interview, however, his assertion that Hitler supported Zionism appears to have been unprompted, as does his comparison of the Israeli government with fascism.
Livingstone insisted that the focus on a potential anti-Semitism problem within Labour was part of an elaborate character assassination of the party, mentioning a recent YouGov poll that showed 49% of Labour members in agreement. He said that, as a cross-section of wider society, there would always be issues of racism in any political party, and that although Labour would fight this, anti-Semitism was not disproportionate.