Head of new Jewish Labour group says 'Ken Livingstone has never made a single anti-semitic comment'

Ken Livingstone has been heavily criticised for his comments about Jews and Israel

Ken Livingstone has been heavily criticised for his comments about Jews and Israel

Friday, September 29, 2017

The head of a new Jewish Labour group has told talkRADIO that the party has no problem with anti-semitism - and that Ken Livingstone has never made a single anti-semitic comment.

Jenny Manson is chair of Jewish Voice for Labour, a movement which was launched at the Labour Party Conference on Monday (September 25). The launch was attended by Israel-American speaker Miko Peled, who made headlines by saying "free speech should extend to Holocaust denial" at a separate conference event.

Manson says her new group has no fixed position on what exactly constitutes anti-semitism, but says that, by her own definition, Labour has no problem with this issue - despite several reported examples of party members being abusive on the subject of Jews and Israel.

She told us: "My definition [of anti-semitism] is hostility towards Jews. If people say Israel is doing something wrong for a specific reason, that’s ok. If they said Israel was wrong because it was run by Jews, that’s not ok.

"I don't think Labour has a problem with anti-semitism. I don't. You could take any big organisation apart - BBC, British Rail - you might find isolated examples. But I suspect there is less in the Labour Party than comparable organisations."

Livingstone has been criticised for several comments about Jews and Israel, notably his suggestion that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism, and is currently suspended from the party. But Manson believes the opprobrium which has been heaped on the former mayor of London is unfair.

She said: "Ken Livingstone is not an anti-semite. I don't think any of the things he’s said are anti-semitic.

"I feel he has been punished enough. Let the matter rest. He's not a wicked man. He's never hurt anybody. He's a confirmed anti-racist.

"I thought Judaism and other religions believe in compassion and forgiveness."

Although many have called for Livingstone to be expelled from Labour for his remarks about Zionism, Manson said his suspension should be lifted and he should be welcomed back into the fold.

"He should be allowed to stay on in a background position, or retire gracefully from the party," she said. "This revenge on people must stop.

"Apologising is a new fashion. People are asked to apologise for everything. He should be allowed to retire with dignity. 

"I've been offended by things that have been said by the Daily Mail and other papers about anti-semitism in the Labour Party but I've never expected an apology.

"There's hurt being dished out from all sides. Jewish people don't have a monopoly on being hurt.

"You see all these stories about Muslims, and then people say 'oh but the majority of Muslims don't support this.' Of course they don't. We should be focusing on that."