- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

One of the more revolting contemporary English politicians is London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone. He has just accused Israel — Israel, if you please — of “ethnic cleansing” and has described Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as “a war criminal who should be in prison.”

His remarks came after vicious anti-Semitic attacks in England increased 42 percent last year over the previous year, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. During a recent press conference, Mr, Livingstone compared a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.

Days before the Holocaust Memorial Day, Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, an outbreak of violent attacks against Jews in north London left Jewish gravestones desecrated with swastikas.

The row about Mr. Livingstone, also known in England as “Red Ken,” began after Mr. Livingstone asked a London Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold (it’s all on tape) if he was a German war criminal.

Mr. Finegold replied: “No, I’m Jewish, I wasn’t a German war criminal. I’m quite offended by that.” The mayor then says: “Ah right, well you might be. But actually you are like a concentration camp guard. You are just doing it because you are paid to, aren’t you?”

Prime Minister Tony Blair has asked Mr. Livingstone, a Labor Party leader, to apologize, a request the London mayor ignored. Mr. Blair, who was instrumental in returning Mr. Livingstone to the Labor Party, insisted it was time for the London mayor to say “sorry.” Said Mr. Blair:

“A lot of us in politics get angry with journalists from time to time, but in the circumstances, and to the journalist because he was a Jewish journalist, yes, he should apologize.”

Mr. Livingstone had earlier said the remarks may have been offensive but were not racist that he would not apologize even if the prime minister asked. He has refused further comment, saying he was busy dealing with the International Olympic committee’s four-day tour to assess London’s Bid for the 2012 Games. He repeated his view that the Holocaust was “the greatest racist crime of the 20th century and Nazism the greatest evil in history.” He also said he despised anti-Semitism.

The prime minister, seeking to calm the waters, said he did not believe Mr. Livingstone’s job was on the line or that the mayor’s remarks were meant to be anti-Semitic. But the record is quite different. The prime minister knows better, yet is fronting for Mr. Livingstone.

Last year, Mr. Livingstone hosted Sheik Yusuf al Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood imam who has endorsed suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and attacks on foreign civilians in Iraq. In 2000, Mr. Livingstone in a speech argued global capitalism has caused more deaths than the Nazis. In an earlier incarnation as a newspaper editor, he published a cartoon of the then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in an SS uniform with a caption reading, “The Final Solution.”

Should a city with a Jew-hating mayor be considered for the 2012 Olympic Games site? The spirit of the Olympic Games are at variance with the words of Ken Livingstone and all his mumbled, ritualistic would-be apologies cannot wipe away the stain on his character.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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