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Israel, Friday, March 4, 2005
brands Sharon a war criminal
By Haaretz Service
THE dispute between London mayor
Ken Livingstone and Britain's Jewish leaders
was reignited Thursday night [March 4,
2005] when Livingstone branded Ariel
Sharon a war criminal, the Independent
reported on Friday.
Livingstone launched a provocative critique of
Israel with accusations of "ethnic cleansing" and
demonising Muslims before calling for the
imprisonment of its Prime Minister, according to
the British daily.
The comments were made two weeks after the
London mayor controversially likened a Jewish
reporter to a concentration camp guard.
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
"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."
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 Independent reported.
However, at the crux of the current conflict are
comments made by the mayor to Finegold, a
reporter at the Evening Standard, last
month. 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
Thursday, there was again no sign of apology in
Livingstone's comments. 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."
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
Tumult of pained Holocaust survivors, outraged
Board of Deputies, Holocaust Educational Trust,
community leaders, and their journalist- and
of London Ken Livingstone still won't abase
himself before bad-mannered journalist
Gilad Atzmon asks,
Why should he? Or Rather, Who should
Mr Irving writes a Radical's Diary: Support
for Livingstone over his retort to a
journalist who turned out to be a Jew
Michael (Austrian born) hints at
problem-ownership of the British press.
Quote: "If [Prince] Harry had worn a
hammer and sickle, nobody would have got
excited. . . . The press has a
different sensibility because of its ownership
structure." German press screams:
"anti-Semitism!" - Yes, but is it true?