Ken Livingstone

As someone who is passionately committed to the Palestinian cause, I am deeply disappointed by Ken Livingstone's remarks today

Ken Livingstone’s invocation of Hitler today, combined with the proposition that he only became a problem after 1932, when he went “mad”, was truly astonishing.

I was very pleased to see the Labour leadership act swiftly to suspend Mr Livingstone today, within hours of him making his deeply inappropriate remarks. It is important that a full and proper investigation be launched immediately.

There can be no place in our party for those who express anti-Semitic views, for those who stoke the flames of religious and ethnic tension and engage in dangerous historical revisionism.

As the executive body of the Party the NEC oversees matters pertaining to the suspension and exclusion of members, this incident therefore casts Mr Livingstone’s membership of the NEC in a deeply troubling light. 

Ken Livingstone’s comments not only offend the fundamental decency of the British people and undermine the essential values of our Party, they also betray the cause of the Palestinian people.

Last summer I went out to the West Bank and East Jerusalem with Labour Friends of Palestine (LFPME), and following that visit I wrote for the Huffington Post. I was proud to have been a panelist for the LFPME session at party conference in Brighton last year, and I have also spoken out about the issue in parliament. I am passionately committed to the creation of a stable, secure, sovereign and viable Palestinian state alongside an equally stable, secure, sovereign and viable Israel. 

Ken Livingstone’s comments are deeply damaging because they conflate opposition to the illegal occupation with opposition to Israel as a state, and to the Jewish people as a community. Let me be clear: I am implacably opposed to Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, but the ethnicity, religion and culture of those who are responsible for that occupation are utterly irrelevant to me, as they should be to anyone who wants to see justice for the Palestinian people. My opposition to Israel is to the policies of the Israeli government, and those who support those policies. No more, and no less.

Mentioning opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank in the same breath as references to Adolf Hitler is not only morally offensive, it is politically inept. In one sentence Mr Livingstone managed to project an appallingly divisive sentiment whilst simultaneously causing untold damage to the very cause that he professes to support.

The central aim of those who are conducting and promoting the illegal occupation is to win public support by framing those who oppose it as anti-Semites. Today Ken Livingstone played directly into their hands, and he should hang his head in shame.