Ken Livingstone: Making offensive comments about Jews does not make you anti-Semitic
Making offensive comments about Jewish people does not make someone "inherently anti-Semitic", Ken Livingstone has claimed.
The former London mayor spoke out as the Labour conference was hit by a major row over comments made at a fringe meeting at the party's conference in Brighton.
Delegates demanded the expulsion of the Jewish Labour Movement from the party, while one compared Zionists to the Nazis and said members should be free to ask the question "Holocaust: yes or no."
That prompted the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to say Labour must "do more to establish that it is not a racist party".
Speaking to Talk Radio, Mr Livingstone - who remains suspended by Labour over his claims that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist - suggested that claims of anti-Semitism were being used as a way of undermining Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.
He said: "The simple fact is these issues are being raised by people like Wes Streeting and I think are completely distorting the scale of it.
"Some people have made offensive comments, it doesn’t mean they’re inherently anti-Semitic and hate Jews. They just go over the top when they criticise Israel.
"The people criticising Israeli government policy aren’t criticising people who are Jewish in Britain.
"They’re criticising a government like Jeremy Corbyn criticises Saudi Arabia for its abuse of many of its peoples."
Meanwhile, award-winning director Ken Loach - a major supporter of Mr Corbyn - also claimed the anti-Semitism allegations were exagerrated.
He told the BBC's Daily Poltics: "It’s funny these stories suddenly appeared when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, isn’t it? Presumably it’s gone on for decades, I wonder why it’s suddenly appeared now.
"Jeremy Corbyn has been a long-time supporters of the Palestinians and the injustice that is done to them, the theft of their land by the Israelis and the massacre of people in Gaza, the blockade of Gaza, the ill-treatment of children by the Israelis."
Asked about whether Holocaust denial being discussed at a Labour fringe, he said: "I think history is for all of us to discuss, all history is our common heritage to discuss and analyse. The founding of the state of Israel, for example, based on ethnic cleansing, is there for us all to discuss, the role of I is there for us to discuss, so don’t try and subvert that by false stories of anti-Semitism."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe