- Labour's Shah apologizes for social-media posts about Israel
- `Too many hours in the day' before Shah is suspended, PM says
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the U.K. opposition Labour Party, refused to suspend one of his lawmakers after it emerged she had suggested on social media that Israelis be relocated to America.
Naz Shah, a Muslim who represents Bradford West in northern England, quit on Tuesday as an aide to Labour’s Treasury spokesman, John McDonnell, apologizing for posts about Israel and Hitler that predated her election to the House of Commons last year. But after a meeting with Corbyn on Wednesday, she was allowed to continue sitting as a Labour member of Parliament, despite protests from other lawmakers in the party.
David Cameron challenged Corbyn over Shah’s status when the two men clashed at the prime minister’s weekly question-and-answer session in the Commons on Wednesday. He cited comments made last month to the Independent newspaper by McDonnell that “if people express these views, full stop, they’re out.”
“Frankly, there’ll be too many hours in the day before that happens to the MP in question,” Cameron said. “Antisemitism is effectively racism and we should call it out and fight it wherever we see it.”
The controversy comes at a sensitive time for Corbyn, a week before local ballots across England and elections to the Scottish and Welsh legislatures on May 5. Labour is trying to recover from an unexpectedly comprehensive defeat in last year’s general election, and next week’s vote is the biggest test yet for the new leader, himself a surprise choice to head the party.
“What Naz Shah did was offensive and unacceptable,” Corbyn said in a statement. “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 antisemitism and all forms of racism.”
His office said later that she had been allowed to remain in the party because she didn’t agree now with the things she’d said and shared in the past on social media.
Shah’s posts, highlighted by the political blogger Guido Fawkes, included a graphic she shared on Facebook in August 2014 that showed a map of Israel superimposed on one of the U.S., entitled “Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict.” Under the map was a bullet point talking about the “transportation cost.”
“I fully acknowledge that I have made mistakes and I wholeheartedly apologize to this house for the words I used before I became a member,” Shah told lawmakers after Cameron’s intervention. “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.”
The apology was Shah’s third. She posted on Tuesday on Twitter that “there is no excuse for the offense I have given,” adding that “I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high.”
In a longer statement published by Jewish News Online, she referred to other old social-media posts, writing that “I understand that referring to Israel and Hitler as I did is deeply offensive to Jewish people for which I apologize.” She referred to work she is doing to build bridges between Jews and Muslims, including a visit to a local synagogue.
“The fact that frankly we’ve got a Labour member of Parliament with the Labour whip who made remarks about the transportation of people from Israel to America and talked about a solution and is still in receipt of the Labour whip is quite extraordinary,” Cameron said.
Earlier Wednesday, Labour’s energy spokeswoman, Lisa Nandy, told BBC Television’s “Daily Politics” program that the party should “suspend anybody who makes anti-Semitic comments, in line with our policy, and investigate it.”