The Labour party’s candidate for the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has been forced to apologize for controversial remarks he made earlier this month in a meeting with central Jewish party activists.
The former two-term mayor who is attempting to return to office in the May 3 elections has a long history of tension with London’s Jewish community. The apology was agreed upon in a meeting Wednesday night between Labour Leader Ed Miliband and the Jewish Leadership Council with the precise wording being a subject of lengthy negotiations.
The latest round of recriminations was triggered by a closed meeting four weeks ago between Livingstone and a group of local Jewish leaders, including veteran Labour supporters, rabbis and pro-Israel lobbyists. The aim of the meeting was an attempt to establish common ground between the mayoral candidate and Jewish Labour supporters who have been finding it increasingly difficult to support him and to urge other Jewish Londoners to vote Labour in the upcoming elections.
“People were saying at the meeting that they are going out in their neighborhoods, canvassing for Labour, and getting doors slammed in their faces because of Ken,” said one of the meeting’s participants.
The list of grievances between Livingstone and the British capital’s Jews is long and varied. As mayor, he enraged Israel’s supporters in July 2005, only two weeks after the multiple suicide bombing attacks on London’s public transport, when he justified the Palestinians’ use of such a tactic saying, “Given that the Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons,” and that Israel’s actions “border on crimes against humanity.”
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