Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, rarely misses an opportunity to offend the sensibilities of decent people.
Memories are still fresh of his obscene remarks comparing a Jewish journalist to a Nazi guard, which resulted in an investigation into Livingstone by a local government watchdog in the United Kingdom. And in comments he has made following the July 2005 suicide bombings in his own city, which claimed the lives of 56 innocent people, Livingstone has often sounded like an apologist for terrorism. Livingstone also portrayed young British Jews as potential soldiers in the Israeli army, thus raising again - at a time when anti-Semitism in the UK is growing - the accusation of "dual loyalty" (it is well-known that only Israeli citizens can serve in their country's army).
An examination of Livingstone's career shows that his present statements are an unfortunate echo of his past. During the early 1980s, as leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), Livingstone endorsed Palestinian terrorism and edited a newspaper which ran a cartoon showing then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin dressed in an SS Uniform and captioned with the words "The Final Solution" in gothic script.
Since that time, Livingstone has tried to reinvent himself as a moderate and responsible politician. Yet he continues to belittle the Holocaust by invoking it to describe anything he doesn't like, and has embraced Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, a leading ideologue of Islamist terror and an avowed anti-Semite.
The following is a compilation of Livingstone's statements on the Holocaust, Israel, the Middle East and terrorism:
On the Holocaust:
Oliver Finegold: Mr Livingstone, "Evening Standard." How did tonight go?
Ken Livingstone: How awful for you. Have you thought of having treatment?
Finegold: How did tonight go?
Livingstone: Have you thought of having treatment?
Finegold: Was it a good party? What does it mean for you?
Livingstone: What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?
Finegold: No, I'm Jewish, I wasn't a German war criminal and I'm actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?
Mr Livingstone: Arr right, well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?
Finegold: Great, I have you on record for that. So, how was tonight?
Mr Livingstone: It's nothing to do with you because your paper is a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.
Finegold: I'm a journalist and I'm doing my job. I'm only asking for a comment.
Mr Livingstone: Well, work for a paper that doesn't have a record of supporting fascism.
-- Transcript of an exchange with Oliver Finegold, a London journalist, following a party at London's City Hall, February 9, 2005
"I cannot say to you words I do not believe in my heart."
-- Statement at City Hall refusing to apologize for his remarks to Finegold, February 14, 2005. Holocaust survivors were present at the meeting.
"I have grown up in a world in which one of the most common terms of abuse used by tens of millions of people was someone behaving like a jumped up little Hitler. The idea that we haven't all used the Nazi regime as a reference point for everything vile is absolutely not the case."
-- Statement at Mayor's "Question Time", February 23, 2005. Livingstone was responding to a question about a concerned primary school teacher who, after telling off one of her pupils for who calling a Jewish child "a Nazi", was given the excuse that "The Mayor said it was OK, so why can't I do it?"
"From the end of the 1980s, local government has had no more independence in Britain than the Vichy regime in France under the Nazis."
-- Interview with Local Government Association newspaper, June 2000
"Every year the international financial system kills more people than World War Two. But at least Hitler was mad, you know?"
-- Interview with NME Magazine, April 2000
"When you get the whole front page of The Times devoted to whether I had a loan to buy a house, that is the sort of coverage you get when you have convicted a Nazi war criminal who has been hiding in Britain for years."
-- Complaining about allegedly unfair press coverage of his personal affairs, April 2000
"Worse than what Hitler did to the Jews."
-- Describing Britain's record in Ireland, Irish Radio, August 1983
On Israel, Jews, the Middle East and Terrorism
“They should go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs, if they don’t like the planning regime or my approach.”
-- Attacking property developers Simon and David Reuben at a press conference, March 21, 2006. The Reuben Brothers are British citizens of Iraqi Jewish origin who were born in India.
“I would offer a complete apology to the people of Iran to the suggestion that they may be linked in any way to the Reuben brothers. I wasn't meaning to be offensive to the people of Iran.”
-- Livingstone’s response to the demand that he should apologize to the Reuben brothers, March 23, 2006.
“Like Dr. Goebbels.”
-- Livingstone’s description of Brian Coleman, a member of the opposition Conservative Party on the London Assembly, following Mr. Coleman’s statement that the London Mayor “has an antipathy, an antagonism, a personal dislike for the Jewish community,” March 23, 2006.
"If a young Jewish boy in this country goes and joins the Israeli army, and ends up killing many Palestinians in operations and can come back, that is wholly legitimate. But for a young Muslim boy in this country, who might think: I want to defend my Palestinian brothers and sisters and gets involved, he is branded as a terrorist. And I think it is this that has infected the attitude about how we deal with these problems."
"I think it is the Israelis who are leading the stubborn line.The Likud and Hamas members are two sides of the same coin. They need each other in order to attract support.
"Under foreign occupation and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work for three generations, I suspect that if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves.
"The Palestinians don't have jet planes, don't have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons."
- - Selection of comments made to the press following the July 7, 2005 suicide bombings in London.
"Ariel Sharon, Israel's Prime Minister, is a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office.
"Israel's expansion has included ethnic cleansing. 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. The methods of groups like the Irgun and the Stern gang were the same as those of the Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic: to drive out people by terror.
"Today the Israeli government is helping to promote a wholly distorted picture of racism and religious discrimination in Europe, implying that the most serious upsurge of hatred and discrimination is against Jews."
-- Excerpts from an article in The Guardian entitled "This is About Israel, Not Anti-Semitism", March 4, 2005. While Livingstone implies that claims of growing anti-Semitism are an Israeli plot, anti-Semitic incidents in Britain in 2004 rose by 42 percent on the previous year.
"I welcome you as an honored guest."
-- Addressing Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi at a London conference, July 7, 2004. With Livingstone present, Qaradawi went on to explain that Palestinian suicide bombings are permitted "within the rules of Islam."
"I would like to see Ariel Sharon locked up in the next cell to Slobodan Milosevic."
-- Drawing a parallel between Israel's Prime Minister and the former Serb dictator in an interview with The Guardian, April 8, 2004