LONDON – London's mayor can keep doing his job while a court decides whether he deserves a four-week suspension for comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Mayor Ken Livingstone, meanwhile, blamed Britain's main Jewish group for initiating his legal troubles because it was unhappy with his attitudes about Israel and the Palestinians.
Livingstone accused the Board of Deputies of British Jews, whose complaint to a disciplinary panel helped lead to his suspension, of acting because he had criticized Israeli policies.
"If the issue hadn't been this, it would have been something else," the mayor said at a news conference. "This was the general displeasure of the Board of Deputies about my views on the Middle East. I think they saw this as an opportunity to use that incident to try to hush me on it."
Later Tuesday, a High Court judge temporarily blocked the Adjudication Panel for England's order suspending Livingstone from office for four weeks starting Wednesday. The High Court will weigh Livingstone's appeal of the suspension.
The outspoken mayor, known as "Red Ken" for his left-wing policies, was found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute by comparing Oliver Finegold, a reporter for the right-of-center Evening Standard, to a Nazi guard.
Jon Benjamin, the Jewish board's chief executive, said Livingstone's accusation that it filed the complaint because of an ulterior motive was "completely false."
He said the board was one of many organizations to complain to the disciplinary panel about Livingstone's comments, and his refusal to apologize for the offense they had caused.
"We never alleged anti-Semitism, we never called for any particular sanction, we simply said we felt this fell short of the standards of behavior expected," Benjamin said. "It's now just a smoke screen to say 'well, there's some vendetta and the Jews are out to get him."'
Livingstone, 60, vehemently denied that he is anti-Semitic, saying he had appointed Jews, blacks and Asians to the highest levels of his administration "and waged an unrelenting war on any manifestation of racism, anti-Semitism and every other kind of discrimination."
He accused Associated Newspapers, owner of the Evening Standard, of opposing those efforts, and said it had a history of anti-Semitism and support for fascism before World War II.
The group made no comment on that charge, but has denied similar allegations from Livingstone in the past.
The mayor said that before his run-in with Finegold, he had refused the Board of Deputies' request to tone down his criticism of Israel. Last year he called the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel's Likud Party "two sides of the same coin."
Livingstone has refused to apologize for his remarks and said an unelected panel should not have the power to remove an elected politician who has not broken the law.
"As far as I'm aware, there's no law against unnecessary insensitivity or even offensiveness to journalists harassing you as you try to go home," he said.
The exchange with the reporter took place after a February reception for the gay and lesbian community at city hall. Finegold identified himself as a representative of the Evening Standard and asked the mayor how the event went.
Livingstone asked whether Finegold had been a "German war criminal."
Finegold replied that, as a Jew, he was offended.
"Well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it 'cause you're paid to, aren't you?" Livingstone said.
The Mail, owned by Associated Newspapers, had a pro-Nazi editorial line in the 1930s.