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London Mayor Says He Is Victim of 'Witch Hunt'


London Mayor Ken Livingstone says his possible one-month suspension from office for comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard stems from his criticism of Israel.

Mayor Livingstone says he is being falsely and indirectly accused of anti-Semitism because he tilts toward the Palestinians and against Israel in his views on the Middle East conflict.

A disciplinary board has ruled that the mayor should be suspended from office for one month. The punishment was to begin on Wednesday, but a judge has delayed enforcement pending an appeal filed by Livingstone's lawyers.

The disciplinary panel says Livingstone was unnecessarily insensitive and offensive when he compared a Jewish reporter with a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Livingstone told a news conference Tuesday he has nothing to apologize for, and he did nothing illegal in his confrontation with the reporter.

"As far as I am aware, there is no law against unnecessary insensitivity or even offensiveness to journalists harassing you as you try to go home," said Ken Livingstone. "There is however, an unstated allegation, the implicit suggestion that my comment was anti-Semitic."

The mayor says he has appointed Jews to high-level city government positions and has campaigned against anti-Semitism. He says he is the victim of what he called "a McCarthyite witch hunt" because of his views on Israel.

"For far too long, the accusation of anti-Semitism has been used against anybody who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government," he said.

Livingstone also says the order to suspend him is an assault on democratic principles.

"The fundamental issue is not whether or not I was insensitive," said London's mayor. "It's the principle that those who the people elect should only be removed by the people who have elected them, or because they have broken the law."

The mayor says the case could drag on for several months, but he is prepared to fight the matter all the way to the Law Lords, Britain's highest court.

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