Labour council group leader suspended over incendiary comments

Speech calling for Palestinian flag to fly over town hall implied Israel was comparable to Nazis


A Labour council leader who implied that Israel is comparable to Nazi Germany in a town hall speech has been suspended by the party with immediate effect after a JC investigation.

Labour HQ confirmed today the action has been taken against Mohammed Iqbal in Pendle, Lancashire over his incendiary comments.

He is the sixth councillor to be suspended by the party over allegations of extremism since the locals election last month.

Mr Iqbal, leader of the council Labour group, is prevented from attending any party functions or meetings while he is investigated and may face expulsion.

Last month, after moving a motion calling for the Palestinian flag to fly from the town hall, Mr Iqbal said: “The fact is that what’s going on in Ukraine, Palestine, and other areas I’ve mentioned, reminds me, I barely passed my GCSE history at school, but many people in this room will remember what justification Hitler had for what he did to the Jews in the Second World War.”

Such a comparison of Israel to the Nazis may be a breach of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by all main parties.

Asked whether his implied comparison might fall foul of the IHRA definition, Mr Iqbal told the JC: “I disagree that this is antisemitic. I have friends who are Jews and Israeli friends who are Jewish and from other faiths.” Several Jews had contacted him to express their support, he said.

Former Labour peer Lord Austin told the JC that party leader Sir Keir Starmer should “boot out” Mr Iqbal as a result of the comments.

The swift and decisive action in suspending Mr Iqbal appears to mark a new phase in Labour’s determination to rid itself of extremism.

Meanwhile the Conservative leader of the Pendle council, Nadeem Ahmed, has announced that the Palestinian flag – which was replaced during the Jubilee weekend by the Union Flag following complaints from residents – is to be flown again from later today.

The motion calling for the flag to fly had been passed unanimously by the council, where the Conservatives are in the majority.

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