Sadiq Khan apologises to Chief Rabbi for hinting at Islamophobia over his ceasefire call

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Sadiq Khan apologises to Chief Rabbi for hinting at Islamophobia over his ceasefire call

EXCLUSIVE: London mayor reaches out to Ephraim Mirvis after claiming Jewish criticism had been influenced by his Muslim-sounding name

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Sadiq Khan with the Chief Rabbi at a Yom-Hashoah commemoration. Photo: John Rifkin
Sadiq Khan with the Chief Rabbi at a Yom-Hashoah commemoration. Photo: John Rifkin

Sadiq Khan has apologised to the Chief Rabbi after implying that Ephraim Mirvis’s criticism of his call for a Gaza ceasefire was influenced by his Muslim sounding name.

In an interview with the broadcaster Mehdi Hasan, the mayor of London suggested he was “disappointed” when Jewish leaders and “friends” including Mirvis condemned his decision to speak out on Gaza, while a similar ceasefire call by Manchester Metro mayor Andy Burnham was ignored.

In comments that immediately sparked anger in the community, Khan told Hasan:””What motivated them to come out in the way they did against the Mayor of London, and the Mayor of Greater Manchester – I’ll give you a clue, he’s not called Ahmed Bourani, he’s called Andy Burnham, whereas I’m called Sadiq Khan.”

The interview was promoted online with the title “Islamophobia is now being normalised’: Sadiq Khan talks to Mehdi about Gaza and Trump”.

He had earlier claimed: “Very shortly after I called for a ceasefire, the Mayor of Greater Manchester called for a ceasefire.

“I’ve not seen the Chief Rabbi, the Jewish Chronicle, say comments said against me in relation to my calls for a ceasefire.

“And I’d ask those Jewish people to just pause and reflect on their response to me calling for a ceasefire. ”

Jewish News has learned that Khan has now expressed regret over the remarks made about Mirvis, which were expressed after ex-MSNBC US channel host Hasan questioned him about comments made about the mayor’s decision to call for a Gaza ceasefire on 27 October.

In a statement released later on Friday, Khan said: “I have been in contact with the Chief Rabbi to apologise for my comments, which I deeply regret.

“He has, along with other Jewish leaders, been a friend to me, and we have worked hard together to unite our city and celebrate our diversity. At times it is clear to me, and others, that as a mayor of London of Islamic faith, I am held to a different standard and that can be frustrating – particularly during a divisive election campaign.

“But, it wasn’t fair of me to have levelled that frustration at the Chief Rabbi. I am sorry for any hurt this has caused and will continue working with Jewish leaders to build a safer London for everyone.”

Making the plea for a ceasefire in a video released on social media, Khan left many communal figures surprised with his unexpected intervention.

During the interview, aired on Hasan’s new Zeteo network, the presenter asked him:”Mehdi Hasan – “When you came out for a ceasefire, the former Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard said, ‘Shame on you Sadiq Khan, you are no friend of the Jews’ and the Chief Rabbi said you were being ‘irresponsible’.

“As someone who I know has worked very hard to win over the trust and support of Jewish Londoners – you’ve shown ‘zero tolerance’, I know you say, for antisemitism on the left – how hard was it for you to take a pro-ceasefire position and face all this incoming, all this criticism, from prominent Jewish British people.”

Before making his remark about if he were called Bourani, the mayor said: “So the very first event I did when I was elected Mayor in 2016, the very first event I did was to attend Yom HaShoah, and for those of you that don’t know, this is the personal Jewish grief about the Holocaust – so there’s Holocaust Memorial Day, where we commemorate Holocausts across history from Rwanda to Darfur and elsewhere, but Yom HaShoah is a particularly personal grief that the Jewish people have – and that’s the very first event I did as mayor in 2016, and since then I’ve spent a lot of time with Jewish friends, neighbours and colleagues – been their Mayor, because I’m a Mayor for all Londoners, which is really really important, as well as all the other religions and those who aren’t members of an organised religion.

“So I’m fully cognisant of the strong feelings there, of the strong feelings there are on all sides in relation to these sorts of issues. But I’ve got to say and do what I think is right – I’m actually disappointed by some of the responses from Jewish leaders, Jewish friends.”

During the 25-minute interview, Khan was asked his view on those carrying ‘From The River To The Sea’ placards at pro-Palestine demos in London.

He stressed that freedom of protest and the right to protest was a human right, and said the police could only ban demos if there was a serious threat of violence.

But he added of the demos: “A  small minority have said things.that in my view are antisemitic.” Khan also called for those on the protests “not to say” chants that they recognised as being upsetting to Jewish friends of neighbours.

Ask for his view on the use of the chant “From The River …” Khan said it was “all about the context” and added that as criminal law suggests, “if you go outside a synagogue and say those words in antisemitic.”

He added:”I agree with the police.”

Barrister Sarah Sackman, Labour’s candidate in Finchley and Golders Green, said:”“It is right that Sadiq Khan has listened to the concerns raised by Jewish Londoners including myself and apologised to the Chief Rabbi over his recent inappropriate comments.

“This is especially so as many of London’s Jews are feeling anxious and isolated at the present time.

“The Chief Rabbi is a such a well respected representative of the Jewish community who does so much for community relations. Sadiq’s focus as mayor should be on building bridges between London’s communities – something I believe he has done and can continue to do in the future.”

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