Ken Livingstone believes Jews will not vote for Labour "because they are rich".
Ken Livingstone, who sat on Labour's ruling body, has been suspended by the party . Reuters

Jeremy Corbyn must overhaul Labour's selection and membership rules, in a bid to tackle anti-Semitism within the party, according to the UK's main Jewish body. Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, made the plea to the Labour leader after former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone was suspended by the party.

The disciplinary measures came after Livingstone, who sits on Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC), claimed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was a supporter of Zionism, the movement to establish a Jewish homeland. Arkush said Livingstone, a close left-wing ally of Corbyn, had crossed the line and branded the remarks as "anti-Semitic".

"It was much more than offensive language, Ken Livingstone actually said Hitler was some sort of Zionist," Arkush told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "What Ken Livingstone deliberately did was to draw an equation between Nazism and Zionism. He therefore crossed a line into what certainly most people would regard as distinctly anti-Semitic."

He added: "Zionism is nothing more and nothing less than the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. To say that is something like Nazism is deeply wrong, deeply offensive and unquestionably anti-Semitic because he doesn't say that about the right of any other people to the right of self-determination."

Arkush urged Corbyn to "become part of the solution by getting a grip" of the problem and making reforms to the vetting of Labour parliamentary candidate and prospective party members.

Labour's deputy leader Tom Waston, appearing on the same programme, described Livingstone's comments as "vile and crass". But he stopped short of calling Livingstone's comments as "anti-Semitic". "I personally think that Ken was straying into that territory, but they were certainly offensive and proactive," Watson argued.

Livingstone's suspension cane just a day after Bradford West MP Naz Shah was suspended by the party after backing a call to relocate Israelis to the United States. Shah had apologised for the Facebook post, which was published in 2014 before her election to parliament in 2015. The anti-Semitism scandal has rocked Labour with just days to go before the 5 May elections across the UK.