Dear Ken, Here's a Goodwill Salt-Beef Bagel: With Mayor Livingstone Now So Keen to Be Seen as a Friend of the Jewish Community, Perhaps It Is Time to Send Him a Personal Invitation. or Two-In Case He Wants to Bring His Friend Sheikh Al-Qaradawi
Rowan, David, New Statesman (1996)
Ken Livingstone is not the most popular politician among Jewish Chronicle readers. Perhaps it is his choice of friends--Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, for instance, viewed by Livingstone as "a moderate scholar, held in respect throughout the Muslim world", who last week told a Qatari TV station that "the Jews of today bear responsibility" for killing Jesus Christ. Or it could be the mayor's refusal to apologise to a Jewish London Evening Standard reporter he likened to a concentration-camp guard, or then again his suggestion that two Jewish property developers should "go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs".
So when it was announced that a rally would be held in Trafalgar Square on 17 September to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the readmission of Jews to Britain, there was intense speculation as to whether the mayor would show up. There was "clear unease" among community leaders about his having any role, the organiser told the Jewish Chronicle, and "sensitivities" were likely to lead to someone else on the podium.
As plans advanced, the organiser told us Livingstone had not been personally invited to participate in the klezmer music, shofar-blowing and borscht tasting. Instead, as we reported, his deputy Nicky Gavron would represent his office--which, after all, was paying [pounds sterling]60,000 towards the cost and lending one of London's busier spaces. It seemed a diplomatic solution.
So it is a mystery why the JC keeps receiving letters from the mayor's office demanding that we correct the supposed falsehood that he was not formally invited. The third, or was it fourth, arrived last week. Clearly, if Livingstone is so keen now to be seen as a friend of the Jewish community, that community should embrace his new-found inclusiveness in the spirit of this season of repentance. A personal invitation should be biked round to City Hall, together with a goodwill salt-beef bagel. Maybe two, in case he wants to bring his friend al-Qaradawi.
My spell-checker refuses to recognise the expression "anti-Semitic". It is either a flaw in our creaking computer system or a deliberate act of anti-Semitism. …