TEL AVIV – Former London mayor Ken Livingstone abused the memory of the Holocaust for his own political needs, Israeli MK Merav Michaeli said on Sunday.
Speaking at a synagogue in New York on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, the Zionist Union MK lashed out at Livingstone over the latter’s claim that Adolf Hitler was initially a supporter of Zionism.
“There will always be those who will try to downgrade the tragedy and atrocity of the Holocaust. There will always be those who will try to abuse it for political needs, as Ken Livingstone painfully reminded us this week,” said Michaeli. Israel, she added, must remain “committed to fighting hate and racism, and accepting others.”
In response to his comments, Livingstone was suspended from Britain’s Labour party, in which he served as the head of its international policy commission.
Michaeli also noted that her grandfather, Rudolph Kastner, taught her how to take action and not be a victim. Kastner remains a controversial figure in Israel over accusations that he collaborated with the Nazis.
A leader of the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee to help Jewish refugees in WWII, Kastner gave senior SS officer Adolf Eichmann money, gold, and diamonds to allow 1,684 Jews to leave Hungary for Switzerland.
However, Kastner was later accused of making deals with the Nazis and failing to warn Jews he couldn’t save that they would be transported to death camps. In 1955, a judge determined that the then-spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Trade had “sold his soul to the devil.”
The indictment led to the collapse of then-prime minister Moshe Sharett’s government. Two years later, Kastner was assassinated.
Less than a year after that, the Supreme Court reversed the rulings against Kastner, saying the judge “erred seriously” and Kastner’s sole motivation had been to save as many Hungarian Jews as possible.
Michaeli said the lesson she learned from Kastner “doing the inconceivable thing of negotiating with Eichmann and other Nazi officers … is not to be a victim. … It is a personal motto for me. … It must also be true for the State of Israel.”
“[Kastner] had a rare opportunity during the war that was not possible for many others, but he took it. Even when he was cast in the role of the ultimate victim – Jew versus exterminator-in-chief – he managed to take his fate and that of his community into his own hands, and in the most constructive possible way,” Michaeli said.