U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn denied Thursday that his party was facing an anti-Semitism crisis or had an anti-Semitism problem, following a political uproar and the suspension of two prominent party figures in as many days over comments deemed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
“It’s not a crisis. There’s no crisis,” Corbyn was quoted by British media as saying. “Where there is any racism in the party it will be dealt with and rooted out. I have been an anti-racist campaigner all my life.”
Former London mayor and veteran Labour politician Ken Livingstone was the latest Labour politician to be suspended for controversial remarks on Zionism, one day after lawmaker Naz Shah’s suspension for her anti-Israel comments.
Corbyn voiced “grave concerns” at comments made by Livingston, in which he claimed Hitler supported Zionism, and maintained the party had no anti-Semitism problem: “No, there is not a problem. We are totally opposed to anti-Semitism in any form within the party. The very small number of cases that have been brought to our attention have been dealt with swiftly and immediately, and they will be.”
He attributed claims to the contrary to party memebers who were “nervous of the strength of the Labour party at local level.”
Labour MPs called on Thursday to suspend Livingstone from the party after he rushed to defend colleague Shah’s anti-Israel comments by claiming that Hitler supported Zionism. Corbyn said he was sad to see Livingstone go, but had a “responsibility to the party.”
Livingstone had also angered colleagues by asserting Shah’s remarks comparing Hitler’s policies to those of Israel toward Palestinians and for suggesting Israel be relocated to the United States, were not anti-Semitic.
Shah had made these suggestions in social media posts two years ago before being elected to parliament, and apologized for them after a right-wing website posted about them in a blog on Tuesday.
Livingstone alleged there was a “well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticized Israeli policy as anti-Semitic,” Sky News said.
In an interview with BBC, Livingstone also said that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”
Ten lawmakers including the London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan, had called for Livingstone’s removal from Labour, with MP John Mann even confronting him outside the BBC during a chance encounter as a “Nazi apologist.”
At the beginning of the week, another member of the Labour party was suspended for saying the Holocaust was a “political tool” Israel used.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “clear the Labour Party has got a problem with anti-Semitism,” according to the BBC, adding: “They’ve got to deal with it.”
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