Ken Livingstone condemns anti-Semitism ahead of Parliamentary inquiry appearance


Ken Livingstone has issued a statement condemning anti-Semitism, as he prepared to give evidence to a parliamentary inquiry looking into the extent of the problem.

The former London mayor was suspended from the Labour Party in April following a row over his claim that Adolf Hitler had initially supported the aims of Zionism.

The comment led to allegations of anti-Semitism, including a public confrontation with furious Labour MP John Mann who branded Mr Livingstone a "Nazi apologist".

But in a written statement to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee ahead of his appearance later in the day, Mr Livingstone said: "I detest racism and condemn anti-Semitism. Indeed my political career has totally opposed any such views concerning any religious or ethnic group."

Mr Livingstone voiced concern over what he said was "a rise of physical and verbal attacks in London motivated by racism and faith hate" over recent years, including an "utterly deplorable" doubling in recorded anti-Semitic hate crime between 2010 and 2015.

He was critical of his Conservative successor as mayor, Boris Johnson, for cutting police numbers in the capital, and said the Government should scrap its "counter-productive" Prevent programme, which he said was undermining confidence-building measures between faith communities.

And he drew a link between British military engagement in Iraq, Syria and Libya and terror attacks in the UK.

He quoted unnamed security chiefs as warning that "military intervention overseas increases the risk of domestic terrorism" and said the Community Security Trust had reported that "trigger events" in the Middle East can spark a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK.

Defending himself against suggestions of anti-Semitism, Mr Livingstone cited his record as mayor of promoting events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, hosting an Anne Frank exhibition at City Hall, organising a Jewish festival in Trafalgar Square and staging menorah lighting ceremonies to mark Hanukkah.

He quoted the finding of a High Court judge in a 2006 case, that it "could not sensibly be suggested" that Mr Livingstone was anti-Semitic and adding that his disapproval of some actions of the state of Israel "has nothing to do with anti-Semitism".

"Racism is a uniquely reactionary ideology, used to justify the greatest crimes in history - including the slave trade, the extermination of all original inhabitants of the Caribbean and apartheid," said Mr Livingstone.

The Holocaust was the ultimate, "industrialised" expression of racist barbarity, he added.

"Racism serves as the cutting edge of the most reactionary movements. An ideology that starts by declaring one human being inferior to another is the slope whose end is at Auschwitz. I totally reject such a view of Jews, black people or any other group."

Also giving evidence at the Home Affairs Committee hearing were Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Scottish National Party leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson.