Report: London mayor brands Sharon a war criminal
The dispute between London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Britain's
Jewish leaders was reignited Thursday night when Livingstone branded
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a war criminal, the Independent reported
Livingstone launched a provocative critique of Israel with
accusations of "ethnic cleansing" and demonizing Muslims before
calling for the imprisonment of Sharon, according to the British
He also claimed in his article that the Israeli government presented
a "wholly distorted picture of racism and religious discrimination
in Europe in order to convey the impression that Jews suffer most
"The reality is that the great bulk of racist attacks in Europe
today are on black people, Asians and Muslims - and they are the
primary targets of the extreme right."
The comments were made two weeks after the London mayor
controversially likened a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration
Livingstone has refused to apologize for his comments, repeatedly
emphasising his anti-racist stance and denying that his words were
anti-Semitic, the Independent reported.
His comments on Israel came to light in a written response to
criticism levelled at him by the Board of Deputies of British Jews
which was published in Friday's Guardian.
"Israel's expansion includes ethnic cleansing," he
wrote. "Palestinians who had lived in that land for centuries were
driven out by systematic violence and terror aimed at ethnically
cleansing what became a large part of the Israeli state."
He added: "Today the Israeli government continues seizures of
Palestinian land for settlements, military incursions into
surrounding countries and denial of the right of Palestinians
expelled by terror to return.
"Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, is a war criminal who should
be in prison not in office."
In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the mayor's
comments "aren't even worthy of an Israeli response."
His comments are unlikely to ease already fraught relations between
the mayor and the Jewish community in Britain.
Tensions came to light last year when Livingstone invited the Muslim
cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to speak at a conference in London, the
However, at the crux of the current conflict are comments made last
month by the mayor to Finegold, a reporter at the Evening Standard.
His refusal to apologise for his remarks led to a media storm that
culminated in the demand by Zvi Heifetz, Israel's ambassador to
Britain, for an apology for "abusing" the memory of the six million
Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
"By using such flippant language, Livingstone not only seriously
abused the memories of all those Jews who survived the concentration
camps, but also the British troops who died fighting the Nazis and
their families," he said.
Livingstone has stood by his decision that he was not going to
apologise for his words. At one stage, he said that his words
were "not intended to cause offence" and had no intention of
trivialising the Holocaust. But he added: "The form of words I have
used are right. I have nothing to apologise for."
On Thursday, there was again no sign of apology in Livingstone's
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies told The Guardian: "Once again
the mayor has shown an inability to understand and show
consideration for the Jewish community."
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