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A tale of two cities
London, Rome mayors hold different views on anti-Israel bigotry
The mayors of London and Rome seem, at first glance, to have much in common. Both Ken Livingstone and Walter Veltroni are in charge of major European capitals, which face concrete threats of Islamic terrorist attacks. London has already been attacked last July, while Rome has been threatened on numerous occasions by al-Qaeda and associated jihad groups.

 

Both Livingstone and Veltroni began their careers on the far Left; Livingstone is known in London as "Red Ken" for his diehard socialist views, and today occupies the radical fringe of the Labour party (from which he was temporarily ejected), while Veltroni kicked off his political life in the Italian Young Communist Federation, before joining the Left-Wing Democrat party.

 

This, however, is where the similarities end. On November 3, following a statement by Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map," Veltroni participated in a large-scale pro-Israel demonstration in Rome, attended by 20,000 people, and senior Italian politicians from the Left and the Right.

 

"My presence here is natural," Veltroni told the Italian crowds who came to rally against Iran's menacing stance, "because the statements by Iran's president should be taken seriously. It is only natural that a city that advocates peace and dialogue object to any kind of intolerance," he added.

 

Two weeks later, in an interview with the UK's SomethingJewish website, Ken Livingstone said that questioning the morality of Israel's foundation was "a perfectly valid thing to say after so many wars."

 

In London, the far Left has joined forces with the most curious of bed fellows, Islamists. Socialist groups work alongside the UK's Muslim Brotherhood branch to build political blocs. Delegitimization and demonization of Israel is neither rare, nor do they cause public uproar in the British capital.

 

In 2004, Livingstone invited, as a personal guest of honor, the Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood hard line cleric, Sheikh Yousuf Qaradawi, who publicly advocates the execution of gays, wife beatings, and suicide bombings in Israel. Livingstone, who provided Qaradawi with a red carpet treatment, defends him as a "progressive."

 

Qaradawi, on his London visit, told the BBC of his view of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks: "I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God's justice."

 

"Here is the force that we need to engage with if we are to actually get a dialogue," said the London mayor about Qaradawi.

 

In 2003, before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, the Iraqi dictator's deputy, Tariq Aziz, visited the Italian capital. Aziz refused to take a question from an Israeli journalist at a press conference, saying: "It was not in my agenda to answer questions by the Israeli media."

 

Although Aziz was scheduled to meet with Veltroni, Rome's mayor wrote to Aziz:: "I wish to inform you that I find myself obliged to cancel
our meeting. The reason is because of your refusal to answer a question posed to you by an Israeli journalist at a news conference held at the Foreign Press Association. Rome, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, has always had absolute respect for dialogue and the civil exchange of ideas, not to mention, obviously, freedom of opinion and free access to information."

 

He continued: "I cannot accept that a public figure like yourself, the representative of another country, can set a veto and discriminate against someone, denying them the right to express themselves, creating vetoes and discrimination."

  

This, then, is a tale of two cities, London and Rome, facing a similar threat from the direction of Islamic terror but being led in radically different directions. London, a rich multi-cultural metropolis, is being betrayed by a mayor in deep embrace with dubious and sinister figures, entrenched in the camp of the most radical fundamentalist movement of the 21st century. Livingstone not only wants to appease those who threaten his capital - he also genuinely shares some of their attitudes.

 

Rome, on the other hand, is being led by a man with the moral courage to stand up for the enlightened values of universal human rights and pluralism. Its ever vigilant mayor denounces and confronts poisonous bigotry, wherever he finds it.

 

For now, that bigotry is festering in London, under the shadowy watch of its mayor.

 

Yaakov Lappin is a Ynetnews editor

פרסום ראשון: 11.21.05, 19:03
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