Ken Livingstone, Adolf Hitler
The former London Mayor implied Adolf Hitler was a Zionist Getty Images

Ken Livingstone said in his headline-grabbing interview with LBC that he was just hoping for a quiet week, "moving the newts from the old pond to the new one" before he linked Austrian genocidal maniac Adolf Hitler with Zionism.

As he attempted to defend Bradford West MP Naz Shah, who had already apologised for herself, Livingstone told the world that when "Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel."

He added: "He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."

As Tories and the right-wing press rubbed their hands together with glee, the former London mayor refused to apologise for his comments and went on LBC radio to defend his position. In an uncomfortable 30 minutes, he repeatedly refused to apologise for his remarks, but did say he regretted saying it.

Over the course of the last few days Livingstone has cited obscure Marxist author Lenni Brenner as the source for his remarks. Then during his toe-curling interview with former Conservative Cabinet minister David Mellor and Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick, he said the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also affirmed his beliefs - and "no-one was accusing him of being anti-Semitic".

A 'distortion of history'

The 1983 book that Ken Livingstone citied was called 'Zionism in the Age of the Dictators' where Brenner claims there was Zionists collusion with Nazis in pursuit of their goal of establishing a Jewish homeland. But, according to social historian and author David Rosenberg, the book was "badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture".

Rosenberg is an anti-Zionist Jew active in the Jewish Socialists' Group, a supporter of Jews for Justice for the Palestinians, and a Labour Party member. He told IBTimes UK that on his arrival in the UK to promote the book, Brenner, was invited to address the JSG.

He said: "There was evidence that some Zionists at the time did contact Nazi leaders, but there was a massive power imbalance. The Zionist movement was very small –and just a minority opinion amongst Jews.

"To suggest there was some sort of symbiosis, or a belief that they really shared the same goal, is to distort history. The Nazis wanted to rid Germany of all of its Jews and Jews wanted to escape terror and oppression wherever they could reach. Zionist Jews wanted to go to Palestine.

Ken Livingstone 'regrets' Hitler comments but stops short of full apologyIBTimes UK

"Brenner's book tells the history as a simple goodies and baddies affair, uncluttered by nuance or contradiction, which tries to implicate Zionism and pretty much all Zionists in the Holocaust in order to make a simplistic point about Zionism/Israel/Palestine today.

"In 1983, Brenner came to the UK to promote his book and Jewish Socialists' Group members invited him to speak about it. This was probably about the time that Ken came into contact with his ideas, but, Brenner failed to convince us of his assertions."

So maybe Ken is guilty of being a little ignorant on the subject and was certainly ill-advised to bunch Hitler, Zionism and today's anti-Semitism in the same bracket. Rosenberg says Livingstone's comments were indeed "crude and un-nuanced" and detracted from his previous record of "fighting for equality and against all forms of racism".

The former London Mayor said that during the Labour Party inquiry into his comments he will ask Netanyahu to come to the UK to defend him for making the comments. In October, Netanyahu sparked public uproar when he claimed that the then Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, had been in contact with Hitler. (His comments can been seen in the video above from 5 minutes in).

According to Netanyahu, Hitler had no intention of killing the Jews, but only to expel them – but the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, told him to kill them. In a speech before the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, that Livingstone cited during the interview, Netanyahu described a meeting between Husseini and Hitler in November, 1941.

"Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here (to Palestine).'

The Austrian Nazi leader then asked: "What should I do with them?" and the mufti replied: "Burn them."