JEREMY CORBYN has finally caved in to mounting pressure and suspended Labour MP Naz Shah, after she called for the deportation of Israelis from the Middle East.
The pressure finally told 24-hours after Shah stepped down from her role as aide to shadow chancellor John McDonnell, after it was revealed she had shared a Facebook graphic showing an image of Israel’s outline superimposed on to a map of the US. The accompanying headline read: “Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict – Relocate Israel into United States”, along with the comment, “problem solved”.
It was posted in August 2014, at the height of the last Israel-Hamas conflict and before Shah became an MP. Her post suggested the US had “plenty of land” to accommodate Israel as a “51st state”, allowing Palestinians to “get their life and their land back”.
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.”
Corbyn had been under intense pressure to take such action after initially giving the Bradford West MP only a reprimand over her post.
Writing exclusively on the Jewish News website before her suspension, the Bradford West MP 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. I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high. But that is no excuse for the offence I have given.”
She added: “The language I used was wrong. It is hurtful. What’s important is the impact these posts have had on other people. I understand that referring to Israel and Hitler as I did is deeply offensive to Jewish people, for which I apologise. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I’m shocked myself at the language I used in some instances during the Gaza-Israel conflict.”
But amid mounting calls from Tory MPs for the whip to be withdrawn, she later announced she would stand down from her unpaid role as McDonnell’s parliamentary private secretary.
Prior to Shah’s suspension Corbyn stood firm, saying: “What she 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.”
Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement said: “In suspending Naz, the party has acted fairly and consistently. This provides a firm context for a process of education.
“Naz Shah is a politician who is clearly on a political journey, from a Respect firebrand in the choppy waters of local Bradford politics to the Labour Party. She courageously stood up to George Galloway’s bigotry at the General Election. However, her historic remarks and posting were repugnant and completely unacceptable.
“Her contrition expressed over the past day seems to be genuine and sincere. This is part of that journey. We are optimistic that she will now take steps to deepen her understanding of Jewish identity. We do not ask or expect her to mute her criticism of the actions and policies of the Israeli government. We do ask and expect her to build upon her apology and contrition with a programme of education and action that includes standing up to anti-Semitism on the left and within the Palestine Solidarity Movement.”
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 added: “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 anti-Semitism inquiry must be called into question.”
Conservative MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden said: “It is completely unacceptable for anyone to phrases like ‘transportation’ and ‘solution’ when it comes to Israel. Labour’s Naz Shah must know the dark historic significance they have for Jewish people. The Home Affairs Select Committee on which she sits is to conduct an inquiry into the rise of anti-Semitism; this raises serious questions about her fitness for it.”
Her suspension came as Labour MPs demanded answers from the leadership over reports it edited Shah’s article for Jewish News, removing references to anti-Semitism.
BuzzFeed said it had seen an original version drawn up by the MP’s office which included an admission that she had “helped promote anti-Semitic tropes”. This section did not appear in the version published on our website.
In another apparently dropped passage, she allegedly called for “an intersectional struggle, one where the concerns of Jewish individuals and communities are taken seriously and anti-Semitism is not dismissed out of hand or ignored”.
References to a wider problem of anti-Semitism among left-wing activists – an issue on which Corbyn has been under mounting pressure to act – were also missing in the final article, Buzzfeed said.
“We on the left must stop procrastinating and tackle oppression within our own ranks, especially anti-Jewish oppression,” Shah was said to have written.
In another change, “referencing Israel in comparison to Nazi Germany” was replaced with “referring to Israel and Hitler”.
MP John Woodcock said: “This is incredibly serious – I feel sick if this is as reported. Needs full explanation of whether true and who edited.”