LONDON (AP) — Britain's main opposition Labour Party, facing growing criticism over perceived anti-Semitism in its ranks, suspended former London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Thursday over his comments in defense of a lawmaker who made anti-Israel posts on social media.
Livingstone, who sits on Labour's National Executive Council, said in a radio interview that he had never heard any anti-Semitic views expressed by Labour members during several decades in the party. He also said criticism of Israel wasn't anti-Semitism, claiming Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism "before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews."
Livingstone was defending lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended Wednesday over anti-Israel sentiments she expressed before she was elected to Parliament last year. She has apologized over the comments, which include a 2014 Facebook post in which she shared a graphic that showed the outline of Israel superimposed on a map of the U.S. under the headline "Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict - Relocate Israel into United States."
Labour said in a statement that Livingstone had been suspended "pending an investigation, for bringing the party into disrepute."
Jewish groups and some Labour members accuse party leader Jeremy Corbyn of not clamping down on anti-Semitism in the party. He comes from Labour's left wing, which has strongly supported the campaign for a Palestinian state.
Livingstone, who served as London mayor from 2000 to 2008, is a close ally of Corbyn.
Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Livingstone's comments "were abhorrent and beyond disgraceful" and called for him to be expelled from the party.