Reflections on Ken Livingstone and London's Jews

18 May 2012 by CST

I have written an article for the Jewish Daily Forward looking at why so many Jews in London, including Labour-supporting ones, felt they could not back Ken Livingstone for mayor, when on the surface he did a great deal for London Jewish life:

In April, a new phrase entered the London Jewish lexicon. The phrase is simple: “I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m Jewish.” It is a statement of political assertiveness that comes with a resigned smile, a semi-apologetic shrug of the shoulders and a half turn-up of the palms of both hands. It was said in response to Labor Party campaigners when they asked London’s Jews if they would be voting for Ken Livingstone, Labor’s candidate for mayor of London, who lost his bid May 3 to the incumbent Tory, Boris Johnson. This sentiment is rarely challenged, and is normally met with understanding, even empathy.

How did it come to this, that so many Jewish voters, even Labor-supporting ones, were so repelled by Labor’s candidate that they considered their Jewishness reason enough not to vote for him?

The basic answer is simple: The litany of public run-ins between Livingstone and Jews eventually broke the camel’s back. It was, to use an older Jewish phrase, “enough already.”

All the good, practical things that Livingstone did for Jews during his earlier term in office, from 2000 to 2008, from using Trafalgar Square for menorah lightings and for the Simcha in the Square cultural event to housing and welfare provisions for the Orthodox, were rendered irrelevant. “Enough already” came about because what Livingstone said about Jews, Israel and Zionism came to overshadow what he did for London Jewry.

You can read the rest here.


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