Labour’s frazzled response to antisemitism charges
MP Naz Shah apologises to the House of Commons for her pre-MP Facebook comment. She is the second high-status non-white British Muslim to get a battering for ‘antisemitism’ from the right-wing press in a week.
Jeremy Corbyn insisted the party was ‘implacably opposed to all forms of racism’
By Ashley Cowburn @ashcowburn, The Independent
April 28, 2016
Naz Shah has been suspended from the Labour Party amid controversy over a social media post appearing to endorse the relocation of Israelis to the US.
It comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called in Ms Shah, the Bradford West MP, for a personal reprimand a day after she quit as an aide to shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and apologised for the antisemitic comments.
A Labour spokesperson 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 today the MP said she “wholeheartedly apologises” for the words she used in a Facebook post. Speaker John Bercow said they had been “noted by the House”.
David Cameron, speaking at Prime Minister’s questions, said it was “quite extraordinary” that Ms Shah has not already been suspended from the Labour Party.
In a Facebook post in 2014, before she became MP for Bradford West, 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”.
The offending map with its accompanying proposal of mass transfer of Israelis was first posted by Prof. Norman Finkelstein and quickly reposted by many others, including Naz Shah. See Notes and Links below
Labour MP Kate Hoey said Ms Shah should resign from the Home Affairs select committee “right away” and called for the party to hold an investigation.
She told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “It may well be that she should be suspended from the whip immediately with then a view to an investigation into looking into and seeing whether she genuinely accepts that she does not believe what she said and would make an apology to the people of Israel …who she really was saying some dreadful things about.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told The Independent in March that “if people express these views, full stop they’re out”.
Asked if bans should be permanent, he said: “My own view is yes. People might be able to reform their views and the rest of it. On this? I can’t see it…people might say ‘I’ve changed my views’ – well, do something in another organisation.”
Ms Shah told MPs in the Commons: “I wholeheartedly apologise to this House for the words I used before I became a member. I accept and understand that the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that.
“Antisemitism is racism, full stop. As an MP I will do everything in my power to build relations between Muslims, Jews and people of different faiths and none.”
Ms Shah wrote in Jewish News that she wished to 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.
But striking a different tone from others in Labour Ken Livingstone, the former London Mayor and close friend of Mr Corbyn, said Ms Shah’s remarks were not antisemitic and the suspension was unnecessary.
What we have at the moment is a lot of people making a big issue about antisemitism in the Labour Party. In 47 years I have never heard anyone say anything antisemitic.
We expelled a couple of people from the Labour Party early on for saying things that could clearly be interpreted as antisemitic.
This is not that; this is an over-the-top comment about the horrendous conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
By BBC /UK politics
April 28, 2016
Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party over comments he made while defending an MP at the centre of an antisemitism row.
The ex-London mayor will be investigated for “bringing the party into disrepute”.
John Mann chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group againstAntisemitism. He and Dennis MacShane, then MP, both believers in ‘the new antisemitism’ were reprimanded by the judge at an employment tribunal in March 2013 giving ‘glib’ evidence on antisemitism.
Labour MP John Mann, who accused Mr Livingstone of being a “Nazi apologist” in a confrontation outside a BBC studio, faces a reprimand.
Mr Mann had been referring to comments Mr Livingstone made about Adolf Hitler.
“The Chief Whip has summoned John Mann MP to discuss his conduct,” Labour said in a statement.
The row was prompted by the suspension of Labour MP Naz Shah over comments she made about Israel on social media.
Labour criticism of Mr Livingstone mounted when he appeared on BBC Radio London defending Naz Shah – and said he had never heard anyone in the Labour Party say anything antisemitic.
He added: “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
Labour MP John Mann then accused Mr Livingstone of being a “Nazi apologist” in front of a media scrum as he arrived at Westminster’s media studios.
Hitler was violently antisemitic long before 1932. He did propose the Haavara Agreement on transporting German Jews to Palestine (see Notes and Links below) but as he had no means to effect this it is not evidence that he was sane then and mad later. The Agreement was angrily opposed by many German Jews, including Zionists.
Asked about the confrontation on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Mr Livingstone said: “He (Mr Mann) went completely over the top… I have had that with John Mann before.”
But Mr Mann stood by his remarks, saying: “He is a Nazi apologist.”
Mr Livingstone said he was not suggesting Hitler was a Zionist, saying the Nazi leader was “a monster from start to finish”, but he said he had simply been quoting historical “facts”.
Naz Shah was suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, over comments she made on Facebook before she became an MP, including a suggestion that Israel should be moved to the United States.
She has apologised for the comments – but it sparked fresh claims from senior Labour figures that the party is not doing enough to tackle growing anti-Semitism in its ranks.
Shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant told MPs: “I’m sick and tired of people trying to explain it away and, yes, I’m talking to you Ken Livingstone.”
Asked if Mr Livingstone should be suspended from the party, shadow mental health minister Luciana Berger replied “yes”.
this confusion with antisemitism and criticising the Israeli government policy undermines the importance is tackling real antiseeitism
Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan said: “Ken Livingstone’s comments are appalling and inexcusable. There must be no place for this in our party.”
Explaining his stance, in a BBC News Channel interview, Mr Livingstone said: “Naz is not antisemitic – she was completely over the top, what she said was rude, but I literally, during the 47 years I’ve been in the Labour Party, I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic.
“I’ve heard a lot of people being critical of Israel, but if I was to denounce the South African government, you wouldn’t say I was racist.
“And one of my worries is this confusion with antisemitism and criticising the Israeli government policy undermines the importance is tackling real antisemitism.”
But Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Mr Livingstone’s comments were “abhorrent and beyond disgraceful”.
“He denies anti-Semitism in Labour when the evidence is there for all to see. He lacks any sense of reality and decency. He must now be expelled from the Labour Party.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “quite clear the Labour party has got a problem with anti-Semitism” adding: “They’ve got to deal with it.”
By George Parker and Kate Allen, Financial Times
April 27, 2016
The Labour party responded to charges of anti-Semitism on Wednesday by suspending Naz Shah, an MP, for suggesting a policy of “transportation” for Israeli citizens to the US as a “solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict”.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, has been repeatedly accused in recent months for failing to take a sufficiently tough line against anti-semitism and acted against Ms Shah only after coming under intense political pressure.
David Cameron, the prime minister, said it was “quite extraordinary” that she had not been suspended and found support from Mr Corbyn’s own benches, with Labour MP Lisa Nandy suggesting that Ms Shah should be suspended “pending an investigation”.
“I made clear my view to the leader’s office that we should suspend anybody who makes anti-Semitic remarks, in line with our policy, and investigate,” Ms Nandy told the BBC’s Daily Politics.
But Mr Corbyn initially said that the remark, made in 2014, was in the past. He 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 herself tried to salvage her position, with Mr Corbyn’s agreement, by appearing in the Commons to offer a “profound apology”.
“Anti-Semitism is racism, full stop,” she said. “As an MP I will do everything in my power to build relationships between Muslims, Jews and people of different faiths and none.”
But only hours later, the Labour party finally accepted that the row was causing it serious damage in the eyes of the public and that failing to act would also trigger a rebellion among its own MPs.
“Jeremy Corbyn and Naz Shah have mutually agreed that she is administratively suspended from the Labour party by the general secretary,” the party said.
“Pending investigation, she is unable to take part in any party activity and the whip is removed.”
Ms Shah, MP for Bradford West, is the latest Labour figure to be accused of anti-Semitism, with some claiming that Mr Corbyn’s election as leader had brought in new members with strong anti-Israel views.
Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian columnist, wrote last month: “Thanks to Corbyn, the Labour party is expanding, attracting many leftists who would previously have rejected it or been rejected by it. Among those are people with hostile views of Jews.”The Labour leader’s failure on this issue is tarnishing his leadership
He added: “It feels like a painful loss to a small community that once looked to Labour as its natural home — and which is fast reaching the glum conclusion that Labour has become a cold house for Jews.”
Lord Levy, a senior Labour peer and former party fundraiser for Tony Blair, said the party had “a serious problem” with anti-Semitism.
Lord Levy told BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday he believed anti-Semitism existed across the political divide, but it seemed “more prominent” within Labour.
Baroness Neuberger, a crossbench peer, said Labour’s problem of anti-Semitism was “attached to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader”, and added that it was “an issue with the hard left”.
The party’s anti-Semitic incidents include the suspension of Vicky Kirby, vice-chair of the Woking Labour party, for posting a tweet saying Jews had “big noses”. The co-chair of Oxford university Labour club resigned, saying his colleagues “have some kind of problem with Jews”.
The party has a longstanding position of supporting the Palestinian cause and a two-state solution in the Middle East.
The episode is also the latest eruption of identity politics at Westminster after Mr Cameron’s claim last week that Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Muslim candidate for London mayor, had associated with “extremists”.
The prime minister’s attack on Labour’s allegedly soft approach to tackling anti-Semitism also served as a powerful message aimed at a significant section of the London electorate ahead of the May 5 elections.
It was reported by BuzzFeed that Ms Shah’s draft apology to the Commons was rewritten by Labour headquarters to delete some references to anti-Semitism.
One section that was later deleted read: “We on the left must stop procrastinating and tackle oppression within our own ranks, especially anti-Jewish oppression.” Labour said its HQ did not vet the apology.
NOTES AND LINKS
The map was posted in Norman Finkelstein Solution for for Israel-Palestine Conflict , on Monday, August 4th, 2014 in his blog.
Reposted or linked to in 2014 by politics i.e. and Democratic Underground (Are you caught in social media crossfire over Gaza) among many others (mostly American).
Note to Naz Shah and other posters: always give your sources. It’s respectful and allows the trail of transmission of authority to be known.
Muslim-woman battering: see also
Students’ choice of president attacked as antisemitic, with accompanying Notes on the meanings of Zionism.
‘Glib evidence’ on antisemitism by Mann and MacShane:
Defeat for man with mission to prove he is victim of lecturers’ antisemitism
But see also, Brian Klug 2005, Israel, Antisemitism and the Left
Pre-war immigration to Israel
It should not be in dispute that an early plan by Adolf Hitler was to forcibly transfer all German Jews to Palestine. This was opposed by mandatory authority Great Britain and the yishuv, Jews already settled in Palestine, and many other Jews. It led to:
The Haavara Agreement (transfer agreement) between Nazi Germany and Zionist German Jews signed on 25 August 1933. The agreement was finalized after three months of talks by the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Anglo-Palestine Bank (under the directive of the Jewish Agency) and the economic authorities of Nazi Germany. The agreement was designed to help facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine. While it helped Jews emigrate, it forced them to temporarily give up possessions to Germany before departing. Those possessions could later be re-obtained by transferring them to Palestine as German export goods. The agreement was controversial at the time, and was criticised by many Jewish leaders both within the Zionist movement (such as the Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky) and outside it. from Wikipedia