Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has expressed regret and apologised for quoting from the controversial book, The Holocaust Industry, by anti-Zionist Norman Finkelstein.
Ms Rayner was forced into the apology after the Board of Deputies – which had faced calls to disinvite her from its Chanukah event next week – demanded an “urgent clarification” and “heartfelt apology” from the shadow minister.
In a Facebook post unearthed by Twitter user TheGolem, Ms Rayner wrote: “As Norman G Finklestein writes in his seminal book The Holocaust Industry it is important to fight for and preserve the integrity of the historical record.”
Finkelstein is widely regarded as anti-Zionist, although he has attacked the BDS movement, calling them a “cult”.
He claims in the book that the US Jewish establishment exploits the memory of the Holocaust for political and financial gain.
Ms Rayner said: “I was reflecting on my visits to Auschwitz and speaking about the importance of remembering the Holocaust in order to continually challenge and confront antisemitism.
“I regret the choice of quote I used to illustrate it, and now that I know more about the context I would not make that reference again. I apologise for what was a genuine misunderstanding, in what was always intended to be a message of solidarity with the Jewish community. This underscores the importance of engagement with the Jewish community to improve understanding about this issue.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a Board spokesperson said: “We are seeking urgent clarification from Angela Rayner about the use of this citation, which, whatever the intention, was totally unacceptable.
“It is imperative that she issues a heartfelt apology and makes it clear that, now that she understands the context of the book, she will not share anything from it again.”
The Board has faced calls to disinvite Ms Rayner from its Chanukah event next week after a subsequently deleted tweet was unearthed which suggested that people needed “a bigger smear” to attack Jeremy Corbyn.
At the time, communal organisations said this was a snide reference to allegations of antisemitism in Labour, and demanded that Ms Rayner be disinvited.
Ms Rayner, however. maintained the tweet had nothing to do with antisemitism, but to smears inn general from the mainstream media.
So in January of this year @UKLabour's Shadow Secretary of State for Education @AngelaRayner decided to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day by re-posting an article she wrote in 2015 in which she references Norman Finkelstein's "seminal book The Holocaust Industry"….. pic.twitter.com/QvtNlfuNRm
— The Golem (@TheGolem_) November 28, 2018
Jewish Labour Movement chair Ivor Caplin called on Ms Rayner to “apologise immediately… There is nothing ‘seminal’ about accusing the Jewish community of collectively abusing the memory of the Holocaust.
“Given Angela’s past engagement with JLM, she should absolutely know better. This is deeply disappointing and she should apologise immediately.”