Responding to a question about his position on Israel during a debate on Monday, London Mayor Ken Livingstone reportedly said his views were echoed by a former chief rabbi of Britain who he claimed had said that Israel should not have been created.
At a debate entitled "How London can stay ahead as a great world city," organized by the Evening Standard newspaper in central London on Monday night, Livingstone was asked how London can stay ahead "when it is led by a mayor who descends into petty sectarianism, notably in saying that Israel should never have been created?"
Asking the question, Jewish community member Jonathan Hoffman was referring to remarks made by Livingstone during an election campaign in Finchley, north London, in 2004.
Hoffman said that in response to his question about his views on Israel, Livingstone said: "I have criticized Mrs. Thatcher in the past. All governments including that of Israel should be open to criticism. Even the former chief rabbi was quoted in the Evening Standard as saying that maybe it would be better if Israel had not been created."
The mayor was referring to remarks made by former chief rabbi Lord Jakobovits in a May 1991 newspaper article.
In the article - which had the screaming headline "Bad news... Chief Rabbi shames Israel" - Lord Jakobovits said that the Palestinian refugee problem was a "stain on humanity" and that Israel, in cooperation with wealthy Arab nations, would do well to remove that stain.
"It is sad that the mayor's recollection of the interview from 1991 isn't as good as mine," Shimon Cohen, former private secretary to Lord Jakobovits, told The Jerusalem Post. "In the Evening Standard interview Lord Jakobovits actually described the plight of Palestinian refugees as a 'stain on humanity' but he said that the Jews were not to blame for creating the problem.
"He added, 'we cannot forever dominate a million and a half Arabs... this blinkered attitude is self destructive,'" Cohen said.
"The mayor has compounded an anti-Semitic statement with a falsehood," Hoffman told the Post.
A front-page article in The Jewish Chronicle at the time asked: "Surely, however, a crucial question must be how a serious newspaper could manage to contort Lord Jakobovits's [not unfamiliar] views on Israel and the Palestinians into an amazing attack on the Jewish state."