LONDON, May 27 (JTA) A member of the London Mayor’s Office has condemned the recent Israel solidarity rally held here earlier this month. Kumar Murshid, who chairs the London Muslim Coalition in addition to serving in the mayor’s Advisory Cabinet, claimed in a news release that the Jewish community’s May 6 rally, which drew some 50,000 people, was a show of support for “the massacre of innocent children, women and civilians.” He went on to describe the rally as an “assembly of hatred which poses a major threat to community relations.” Murshid signed the statement giving his address as the Greater London Authority, another term for London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s government. A spokesperson for the authority released a response from the mayor denying any prior knowledge of Murshid’s statement. “Ken Livingstone neither endorses nor condones the statement and would like to underline that Trafalgar Square” the site of the pro-Israel rally “comes under his control, and he gave permission for the rally to take place,” the spokesperson said. Asked if the mayor would take any action concerning Murshid, the spokesperson declined to comment. The Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization that represents most British Jews, wrote to Livingstone asking him to disassociate himself from statements like Murshid’s. The board’s president, Jo Wagerman, emphasized that the message of the rally was to “stop the terror and to support peace.” She also wrote that to suggest the gathering incited racial hatred was “grossly insulting for those who attended and organized the event.” Trevor Phillips, chair of the London Assembly, the body that oversees the Mayor’s Office, welcomed Livingstone’s response. “It is a traditional right of Londoners to demonstrate in support of their views. This does not imply that the mayor or assembly take a position in support of, or against, any particular cause,” Phillips said. Murshid “is free to express his own views, but they should not be attributed to the assembly. Condemning the Israeli solidarity rally earlier this month is not something which the assembly would or should do.” Among those addressing the May 6 rally were former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. Approximately 350 buses brought tens of thousands of Jews from all over Britain, including thousands of students and members of youth groups. Sacks called the turnout the greatest gathering in the history of British Jewry. A small but noisy pro-Palestinian demonstration was held nearby, with protesters carrying banners supporting the intifada and denouncing the “Zionist state.” Two people at the counterdemonstration, which drew about 300 people, were arrested for disturbing the peace.
London official blasts Israel rally