Ken Livingstone, former London mayor, has come under fire for saying it is "not anti-Semitic to hate Jews” who displaced Palestinians and created Israel in their homeland.
Livingstone, who was suspended by Labour in 2016 for saying Hitler supported Zionism and then quit the party two years later, last week told a meeting of Jeremy Corbyn supporters that the accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour only began when Corbyn became party leader in 2015, the Daily Mail reported.
It was when Corbyn took over as party leader, Livingstone said, that "ghastly old Blairites" began "doing everything possible to get rid of him," and this is "what has fuelled all this stuff about anti-Semitism."
According to the Mail, Livingstone said:
"The simple fact is, the elite will do everything to stop Jeremy getting into Government."
Livingstone was speaking at a meeting of the "Labour Against The Witchhunt" group, which claims that efforts to root out anti-Semitism in the party are a "witchhunt" aimed at bringing down Corbyn.
The former mayor resigned from the Labour Party in May 2018, saying that a row over anti-Semitism allegations against him had become a distraction for the party’s leadership. He was suspended from Labour after he said in April 2016 that Hitler had supported Zionism.
In a BBC Radio interview, Livingstone was asked to comment on the remarks made by the Labour MP Naz Shah calling to "relocate" Israel to the United States.
"It's completely over the top but it's not anti-Semitic,” he said. “Let's remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.
"The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians."
Livingstone then asserted that there was "well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticised Israeli policy as anti-Semitic."
He later claimed in an interview with Sky News that he was merely "stating historical facts."
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