By ALISON BELLAMY
Bradford West MP Naz Shah has been suspended by the Labour Party over ‘anti-Semitic’ comments she made before she was an MP.
The dramatic move comes after it was revealed that in a Facebook post in 2014, Ms Shah shared a graphic which showed an image of Israel’s outline superimposed onto a map of the US under the headline “Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict – Relocate Israel into United States”, with the comment “problem solved”.
Ms Shah confirmed she had posted it after the Guido Fawkes website, a political blogsite, published the details on Tuesday. (April 26)
After issuing four apologies – including one to the House of Commons – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suspended her from duties on Wednesday, a day after she resigned as parliamentary private secretary to shadow chancellor John McDonnell and apologised again, confessing she ‘made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict when emotions were running high’ but admitting ‘that is no excuse’.
She is now suspended following the outcome of an investigation.
A Labour spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn and Naz Shah have mutually agreed that she is administratively suspended from the Labour Party by the General Secretary.
“Pending investigation, she is unable to take part in any party activity and the whip is removed.”
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday Ms Shah, who became MP for Bradford West a year ago, after gaining the seat from George Galloway of the Respect Party said: “I fully acknowledge I have made mistakes and I wholeheartedly apologise to this House for the words I used before I became a member.
‘I accept and understand the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that.
‘Anti-Semitism is racism, full stop.’
Mr Corbyn said: ‘What Naz Shah did was offensive and unacceptable. I have spoken to her and made this clear.
‘These are historic social media posts made before she was a Member of Parliament.
‘Naz has issued a fulsome apology. She does not hold these views and accepts she was completely wrong to have made these posts.
‘The Labour Party is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.’
Ms Shah later released a statement and apology through Jewish News online and said: “I am sorry.
For someone who knows the scourge of oppression and racism all too well, it is important that I make an unequivocal apology for statements and ideas that I have foolishly endorsed in the past.
“The manner and tone of what I wrote in haste is not excusable. With the understanding of the issues I have now I would never have posted them. I have to own up to the fact that ignorance is not a defence.
The language I used was wrong. It is hurtful.”
Councillor Mohammed Shabbir, who represents Labour in the Heaton ward in Bradford and works in Ms Shah’s parliamentary office, in Bradford, has also been suspended by the party for social media posts of a similar nature.
Guido Fawkes reported he sent Tweets in 2014 using the term ‘Zio’ and referring to a ‘Palestinian Holocaust in Gaza’ as a form of facism.
The Conservative Group on Bradford Council welcomed the Labour Group’s decision to suspend Cllr Shabbir, with its leader Simon Cooke stating: “I think that all race and religion-based hatred needs to be treated equally and with zero tolerance, so it was essential that Councillor Shabbir, an elected Labour member of Bradford Council should be suspended while allegations of this nature are investigated.
“Failure to do so could have brought Bradford Council into disrepute.”
Ms Shah’s original 2014 Facebook post suggested the US has “plenty of land” to accommodate Israel as a 51st state, allowing Palestinians to “get their life and their land back”.
It added that Israeli people would be welcome and safe in the US while the “transportation cost” would be less than three years’ worth of Washington’s support for Israeli defence spending.
Ms Shah added a note suggesting the plan might “save them some pocket money”.
But Ken Livingstone – the former London Mayor who is a close ally of Mr Corbyn – said the remarks were not anti-Semitic and the suspension was unnecessary.
He told LBC Radio: “What we have at the moment is a lot of people making a big issue about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In 47 years I have never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic.
“We expelled a couple of people from the Labour Party early on for saying things that could clearly be interpreted as anti-Semitic.
“This is not that; this is an over-the-top comment about the horrendous conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Ken wasn’t the only one who came to Shah’s defence stating that the remarks weren’t anti-Semitic. George Galloway, who was ousted by Shah in the 2015 General Elections, said in an article in the American Herald Tribune, “It is said, and seems to have been accepted in some unlikely places, that Shah is guilty of “anti-Semitism”. She is not, at least on the evidence which has emerged to date. Her comments are half-witted to be sure, and their appearance at this time will prove a mighty headache for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (who is actually what this is all about) and may prove very significant in British politics over the next few months. But they are not anti-Semitic.”
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