I’m the vic­tim of smear cam­paigns, says mayor

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY SI­MON ROCKER

KEN LIV­ING­STONE, the Mayor of Lon­don, be­lieves that he was the vic­tim of or­ches­trated cam­paigns over in­ci­dents that have pro­duced out­rage within the Jewish com­mu­nity dur­ing his re­cent term of of­fice.

Speak­ing to the JC ahead of next Thurs­day’s May­oral elec­tion, the cap­i­tal’s Labour’s leader crit­i­cised re­ac­tion to his wel­come of the Is­lamic cleric Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi in 2004 and his com­par­i­son of a Jewish jour­nal­ist to a con­cen­tra­tioncamp guard.

The visit of Dr AlQaradawi, who has jus­ti­fied Pales­tinian sui­cide bombers, had been met with “a whipped-up hys­te­ria”, he claimed.

“No one picked up the phone from the Jewish com­mu­nity to talk to me about it. What I saw was, this guy ar­rives, there’s a wave of stuff in the news­pa­pers.

“And then there’s a cam­paign be­tween lead­ing mem­bers of the Jewish com­mu­nity, and some of the Board [of Deputies], Tory mem­bers of the GLA and the Evening Stan­dard. So it doesn’t look to me like any­one wanted to en­gage, they just wanted to de­stroy.”

He ex­plained that his re­mark about the con­cen­tra­tion-camp guard had been his “stan­dard line to any jour­nal­ist I don’t like for 30 years”.

He said he had been “happy to apol­o­gise” for the com­ment, made to Evening Stan­dard jour­nal­ist Oliver Fine­gold in 2005, at the first Jewish event af­ter the threat of his be­ing sus­pended for it had been lifted.

Asked why he did not ex­press re­gret at the time, he said: “We had 48 hours of si­lence and then I opened the Evening Standa r d a n d there are t h r e e full page s o f cov­era g e . The Tory group on the GLA is putting down a spe­cial mo­tion… I recog­nise a cam­paign when I see one. No-one wanted an apol­ogy, they wanted my scalp.”

On the pos­i­tive side, he high­lighted the drop in racist and an­tisemitic in­ci­dents in the cap­i­tal dur­ing the eight years of his may­oralty and his of­fice’s sup­port of Jewish cul­tural events.

He also wel­comed the cre­ation of the Lon­don Jewish Fo­rum two-and-a-half years ago as a ve­hi­cle to dis­cuss and do “things that are rel­e­vant to the Jewish com­mu­nity in Lon­don”, whereas in the past “the only real de­bate be­tween me and the Jewish com­mu­nity was about what’s hap­pen­ing in the Mid­dle East”.

If some vot­ers made the Mid­dle East their pri­mary con­cern, “that’s fine,” he said. But there would be oth­ers who “think it’s im­por­tant, but as the Mayor doesn’t have any say over this… the is­sue is who runs the city well”.

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