Financial Times - The Times of Israel
George Parker, Kate Allen, Jenni Frazer
UK opposition suspends MP in racism dispute
Britain’s opposition Labour party responded to charges of anti-Semitism yesterday by suspending Naz Shah, a member of parliament, for suggesting Israelis be transported to the US as a “solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict”.
Ms Shah’s suspension came after a series of incidents in recent months that have prompted questions about whether the party has become more accommodating of anti-Semitic views since the hard-left Jeremy Corbyn took over its leadership last year.
The Labour leader has been repeatedly accused of failing to take a sufficiently tough line against anti-Semitism. He only acted against Ms Shah after coming under intense political pressure, including from within his own party.
The episode centres on a Facebook post shared by Ms Shah in 2014 that featured a map of Israel superimposed on the US, with the comment: “Problem solved:’
Mr Corbyn initially said that the “offensive and unacceptable” remark was in the past, and that Ms Shah had made it before becoming an MP.
“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 tried to salvage her position, with Mr Corbyn’s agreement, by appearing in the House of 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 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.
Ms Shah, MP for Bradford West in the north of England, is the latest Labour figure to be accused of anti-Semitism, with some observers suggesting this has resulted from an influx of new members with strong anti- Israel views.
Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian newspaper 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.” He added: “It feels like a painful loss to a small community that once looked to Labour as its natural home.”
Labour’s anti-Semitic incidents include the suspension of Vicky Kirby, vice-chairman of the Woking Labour party, for posting a tweet saying Jews had “big noses’: Alex Chalmers, the cochairman 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.