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Israel asks London Mayor to apologise for offending Jewish reporter

*** The Israeli government has joined the huge campaign calling for the Mayor of London to apologise for insulting a Jewish reporter. The campaign is being led by the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and other major newspapers in Associated Media Group which all belong to the same company.
    The Israeli ambassador issued a formal statement yesterday. Most people in Britain have never heard the Israeli ambassador speak out about any issue before, let alone defend a virtually unknown reporter who has been insulted by a politician.
    The Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has insulted thousands of other people during his long and controversial political career without it becoming a major incident. Even the campaigners do not suggest that Ken's rude remarks were racist or anti-Jewish. Why should it be more dangerous to offend a Jew than any other human being?
    A TV news poll carried out this week showed that most people in London back the Mayor and see no need for a special apology in this case. ***

Israel calls for Mayor to apologise

Ken Livingstone came under renewed pressure to apologise for his "Nazi" jibe today.

The Israeli ambassador in London added his country's voice to the demands for the Mayor to say sorry.

In a statement, the embassy said the Mayor's "flippant" language about the Holocaust showed "gross insensitivity" and had caused "shock and emotion" around the world.

Meanwhile, in the Commons, a Labour MP tabled a parliamentary motion saying Mr Livingstone had no excuse for his "appalling" comments to Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold and should apologise without further delay.

The continuing and widespread pressure on Mr Livingstone destroyed his attempts to portray the controversy as merely a row between himself and the Evening Standard.

Mr Livingstone caused outrage when he compared Mr Finegold to a " German war criminal". When the reporter told him he was Jewish and was offended by the remark, Mr Livingstone went on to compare him to a "concentration camp guard".

Despite pressure from Tony Blair, Holocaust survivors, all five parties on the London Assembly and Labour MPs, Mr Livingstone refused to apologise.

Today the anger of Israeli ambassador Zvi Heifetz was felt in a statement from the embassy.

It said: "Jews and non-Jews around the world reacted with shock and emotion to Livingstone's statements and behaviour.

"By using such flippant language, Livingstone not only seriously abused the memories of all those Jews who survived the concentration camps, but also the thousands of British troops who died fighting against the Nazis and their families.

"Coming exactly two weeks after the vivid television images marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and so soon after his own municipality had hosted survivors of the Nazi death machine, his comments demonstrate gross insensitivity to the minorities in London and beyond. Unfortunately, this is not the first time."

There is now deep concern in the Labour Party that Mr Livingstone's behaviour is wrecking the party's standing in the 250,000-strong London Jewish community and could cost seats in the general election.

Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon, which has one of the capital's biggest Jewish communities, tabled an early day motion in the Commons calling upon Mr Livingstone to apologise.

He said: " I am extremely concerned that Ken has indicated that he does not intend to apologise over the appalling remarks he made to an Evening Standard journalist.

"Whilst he may have a long-running dispute with the Associated Newspapers group, this does not excuse what he said.

"Ken should apologise and take immediate steps to rebuild a relationship with the Jewish community in London. After all, almost 250,000 Jews live in London and Ken is the Mayor for the whole of London."

Ilford Labour MP Linda Perham said Mr Livingstone's lengthy statement of self-justification yesterday had failed to mend fences with outraged Jewish people.

"It is not good enough," she said. "I really do not see why he cannot apologise to the Jewish community which is offended."


Evening Standard, "Israel calls for Mayor to apologise", 23 February 2005.


BBC News, "Move on over Ken row, says Blair", 23 February 2005.

Haaretz, "Israeli ambassador booed in Florence", 24 February 2005.
    Some 20 left-wing students began chanting anti-Israel slogans and shouting "fascists, murders!" as Ambassador Ehud Gol was about to start speaking on Middle East peace at the university's law faculty. Police cleared the hall of the protesters, who had raised a pro-Palestinian banner. Gol spoke half an hour later.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 24 February 2005.

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