Labour MP Naz Shah suspended by party following antisemitic posts


Labour MP Naz Shah has been suspended by the party following her Commons apology for a series of antisemitic social media posts.

The decision was taken this afternoon following a second meeting between Ms Shah and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In a statement the party 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.”

Mr Corbyn had earlier issued a statement calling Ms Shah's comments “offensive and unacceptable”, but had refused to suspend the Bradford West MP.

In a point of order statement made in the Commons this afternoon, Ms Shah said she apologised "wholeheartedly" for her comments.

"I have made mistakes," she said. "Antisemitism is racism."

Ms Shah said that she accepted her remarks had caused offence to the Jewish community . Jewish friends and colleagues had offered advice which she would act on, she added.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said the House noted her apology.

A day of dramatic developments saw Ms Shah issue two apologies and David Cameron attack Mr Corbyn over his efforts to combat antisemitism. There were repeated calls – including from Labour MPs and Shadow Cabinet members – for the party to suspend Ms Shah.

A Labour councillor who was employed by Ms Shah as a parliamentary aide was also suspended from the party over his own antisemitic social media posts.

Following Ms Shah's apology in the Commons, Buzzfeed claimed that the MP's initial statement had been doctored by Labour head office to remove all mentions of “antisemitism”.

The site claimed that in her original draft, published in a newspaper and online, she had intended to say: “I accept that referencing Israel in a comparison to Nazi Germany was not only wrong, but totally inaccurate. My other social media posts were also deeply offensive to Jewish people.”

But when she actually delivered her statement, she said: “I understand that referring to Israel and Hitler as I did is deeply offensive to Jewish people for which I apologise.”

Buzzfeed later retracted the claim that Labour officials had edited the statement after denials from the party.

A Labour spokesperson said: "This claim is completely inaccurate. This was not seen, written, edited or approved by Labour HQ, so to suggest we changed it is completely wrong.”

The JC understands that Ms Shah had taken advice from figures in the Jewish community ahead of her apology.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi for the Movement for Reform Judaism, was among those who assisted Ms Shah. Last week the rabbi hosted the MP for an interfaith Seder at her home.

Yesterday the Guido Fawkes website revealed Ms Shah had shared a highly offensive graphic arguing in favour of the inflammatory “transportation” policy two years ago, during the summer before her election.

The JC also revealed that in August 2014, she posted a tweet with a link to a blog which claimed Zionism had been used to "groom" Jews to "exert political influence at the highest levels of public office".

In a post in September that year she appeared to liken Israel’s policies to those of Hitler.

David Cameron's official spokesman called Ms Shah's comments "beyond the pale, they are absolutely indefensible".

Earlier, Mohammed Shabbir, who represents Labour on Bradford Council, was suspended for tweets he sent which referred to a “Palestinian Holocaust in Gaza” and repeatedly used the term “Zio”.

In a blog post about sex crimes and grooming, he claimed Russian Orthodox Jews were involved in “the sex trafficking trade - demand is particularly high among Charedim, the conservative Orthodox Jews, many of whom are regular clients of brothels…”.

In one August 2014 tweet, Mr Shabbir wrote: "Here is a question - is Isis serving a purpose to create a pretext for Israel to invade Syria and Iraq. Has quest for greater Israel started."

The JC also revealed that in August 2014, during the Gaza conflict, Mr Shabbir posted a blog about the decision to fly the Palestinian flag at Bradford town hall.

Jewish Labour donor David Abrahams said he would end his financial backing of the party over its ongoing antisemitism scandal.

Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush welcomed Ms Shah's suspension and expressed dismay over the suggestions that Labour officials had removed references to antisemitism from her statement of apology.

He said: “If true, this reinforces our longstanding concern that the Labour leadership has yet to confront the problem of antisemitism in the party."

To re-establish its credibility as a party opposed to antisemitism, Labour needed to take "four important steps forward", Mr Arkush said.

“First, there must be a credible inquiry into the entire Naz Shah episode.

"Secondly, the party has to take effective measures to eradicate antisemitism wherever it occurs within its membership.

"Thirdly, the leader must make it clear that allegations of antisemitism are not to be dismissed as arguments about Israel.

"Fourthly, Jeremy Corbyn must now respond to our repeated calls for him to accept that his meetings with rank antisemites before he became leader were not appropriate and will not be repeated.

“These steps are essential if Jews and non-Jews alike are to believe that the Labour leader is committed to taking the necessary action and that the party can be trusted on antisemitism.”

Leeds Jewish Representative Council said it had held a meeting with Ms Shah in Bradford last month to discuss the group's concerns about antisemitism allegations in Labour.

A LJRC spokesman said the group was "appalled" by her comments.

"The comments Ms Shah made were entirely at odds with her constructive comments when we met with her and the chairman of the Bradford Reform Synagogue, a Holocaust survivor, on March 18.

"She endorsed Israel’s right to exist where it is within secure borders. She believes that she has a view within the centre of the political debate and said that she receives abuse from those who do not agree with her.

"She was made aware of our concerns over the equally vile comments by Vicki Kirby. She indicated a willingness to consider joining the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews."

LJRC has requested an urgent meeting with Ms Shah to discuss this week's developments.

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