A Labour MP has stepped down from her position as aide to shadow chancellor John McDonnell after it was revealed she had endorsed the relocation of Israel to America – but is still poised to be part of a parliamentary enquiry into anti-Semitism.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah said she “deeply regretted” the hurt caused by her comments and accepted there was “no excuse” for the offence they caused.
In a Facebook post in 2014, before she became an MP, 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 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.
The previous day, 4 August, Shah published a link to a blog that compares Zionism with Al Qaeda. The tweet, which remains live, is to a website called http://cllrshabbir.blogspot.co.uk, carrying an article entitled ‘Colonisation, Israel, Palestinian resistance and…” It states: “European colonial values and it’s history, including Zionism, is devoid of any moral high ground and leads me to question the right of Israel to exist but yet I’m left with a reality that it does exist. In my view Zionism like Al Qaeda was and is a political movement layered with religious symbolism.”
After the relocation posting was highlighted by the Guido Fawkes website, Ms Shah released a short statement saying the post does not “reflect my views and I apologise for any offence it has caused”.
But amid mounting pressure and calls from Tory MPs for the whip to be withdrawn, she later announced she would stand down from her unpaid role as Mr McDonnell’s parliamentary private secretary. “I deeply regret the hurt I have caused by comments made on social media before I was elected as an MP,” she said. “I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high around the Middle East conflict. But that is no excuse for the offence I have given, for which I unreservedly apologise.
“In recognition of that offence, I have stepped down from my role as PPS to the shadow chancellor John McDonnell. I will be seeking to expand my existing engagement and dialogue with Jewish community organisations and will be stepping up my efforts to combat all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.”
The Board of Deputies said in a statement: ““Naz Shah’s comments about relocating Israelis to the United States are simply appalling. She has since apologised and stepped down as John McDonnell’s PPS. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has sought an urgent meeting for clarification of her views on Israel and the UK Jewish community.”
However, there is yet to be any word on her role on the Home Affairs Select Committee which announced a short enquiry into anti-Semitism just a fortnight ago.
Mike Freer, the Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green , said: “She is another example of the poison cousing through the Labour Party. She should have the whip withdrawn and she should recuse herself from the Home Affairs inquiry into anti-Semitism.”
Jonathan Sacerdoti from the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We have offered to assist the Select Committee in its work investigating anti-Semitism, however if Naz Shah remains on the committee it will be hard for those of us giving evidence to take the inquiry seriously.”
Jewish News has contacted the committee chair Keith Vaz but has yet to receive a response.
Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan said: “Both the substance of Naz Shah’s comments, and language used by her, are highly offensive and completely unacceptable. As such, they are incompatible with her post as PPS to the Shadow Chancellor . I would also urge our leadership to make clear her views do not in any way reflect those of the Labour Party. This incident underlines yet again the need for the Labour Party to take urgent action to combat anti-semitism and anti-Zionism in all its forms.”
A Community Security Trust spokesperson said: “We note Naz Shah’s apology, but believe it is inadequate to merely say that she is sorry for having caused offence. If there is no deeper understanding of what was wrong, then her continued involvement in the antisemitism inquiry must be called into question.”