Saying no to Ken
Mark Rivlin is so fed up with the mayor of his city, Ken Livingstone, that the Londoner has been driven to advertise his disdain in a new English-Hebrew bumper sticker campaign, "Say 'Lo' to Ken" - a pun on the Hebrew words for no (lo) and yes (ken).
"I dislike the mayor of London on a personal level. I don't like what he says about the Jewish people; I don't like what he says about Israel," Rivlin told Haaretz. "The only way to get back at him is for the Jewish people who don't like what he says to make a stand."
Livingstone has in the past called the Likud party and Hamas "two sides of the same coin," and has accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing." In 2004, he called former prime minister Ariel Sharon "a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office." He later elaborated that he "would like to see Ariel Sharon locked up in the next cell to Slobodan Milosevic."
But for Rivlin, the tipping point came during the mayor's March 21 press conference, when he accused two Jewish businessmen of endangering a £4 billion Olympic city development, in which they have a 50 percent stake, and suggested that they "go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs."
Brothers David and Simon Reuben - well-known, wealthy London property developers - were born in India to Jewish parents of Iraqi decent.
When the calls for a Livingstone apology reached a crescendo two days later, the mayor apologized - to the Iranian people.
"I would offer a complete apology to the people of Iran to the suggestion that they may be linked in any way to the Reuben brothers," Livingstone explained, "I wasn't meaning to be offensive to the people of Iran."
The mayor also refused to apologize for a February 9 incident in which he told Jewish reporter Oliver Finegold of London's Evening Standard newspaper that he was "just like a concentration camp guard." The remarks earned him a suspension from office for being "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive."
Livingstone later won an appeal against the suspension and a court hearing will soon decide his fate. But if the latest complaint against the mayor regarding the Reuben brothers is upheld, he could face another three-month suspension.
"For far too long the accusation of anti-Semitism has been used against anybody who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government," Livingstone retorted in a statement released on February 28, following the decision to stay his suspension over his comments to Finegold.
It's not just the latest round of Livingstone deeds that have Rivlin "incensed" - he puts it down to the cumulative effect of the mayor's actions since the July 2005 London bombings that have him printing boxes of the bumper stickers.
"This whole business with Sheikh Qaradawi, who he invited over, antagonized both the Jewish community and also the very sizable gay community in London," Rivlin explains.
Egyptian-born Qaradawi, invited by Livingstone to London as an "honored guest" in the wake of the July 7 bombings, said in a 2004 interview to "look for the Zionists behind every disaster" and has been accused of calling for the killing of homosexuals.
Qaradawi has been barred from entering the United States since 1999 due to his long-time advocacy for violence against America.
"Hopefully we are going to get a lot of interest from the Jewish people and Israeli people in London to buy the sticker and show the mayor what we think of him," Rivlin says. "I would like the Jewish people of London to show that they have the potential for a voice. The sticker is a voice, it says something."
The "Say 'lo' to Ken" stickers cost £1, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to Etgarim, an Israeli disability sports charity.