Labour reminds councillor of responsibilities after Israel claims


A Labour councillor who claimed that UK government backing for Israel fuels support for extremist groups such as Daesh has been spoken to by the party after the JC brought his comments to light.

Waseem Zaffar, who sits on Birmingham City council, was also filmed accusing the Israeli government of backing “state-supported terrorism”, and calling for a boycott of Israel.

A Labour spokesperson said: “These views are not shared by the Labour party and Councillor Zaffar has been reminded of his responsibilities as a Labour councillor.”

Calls for the suspension of Mr Zaffar came after he appeared to defend acts of terrorism committed by Palestinians, describing them as “a reaction to Israeli oppression and violence”.

He also claimed that UK government support of Israel fuelled “violent fundamentalism”.

In October, Mr Zaffar rejected an invitation to meet Eitan Na’eh, who was then the acting Israeli Ambassador to the UK.

In an open letter to Ruth Jacobs, of the Birmingham and West Midlands Jewry Representative Council, which was published on his website, he wrote: “Palestinian violence has been a reaction to Israeli oppression and violence. Even when Palestinians protest peacefully, they are shot and often killed or maimed by the Israeli armed forces.”

He added: “Israel’s actions made our work to counter those such as Daesh and Al Qaida much harder. Unfortunately, Israel’s actions and the support given to Israel by our government and other western governments feed violent fundamentalism.”

Mr Zaffar, who was made an MBE in 2012 for his charity work, said he fully backed a boycott of Israel, calling for people to draw up a list of companies who “are supporting the Zionists out there in Israel”.

Speaking at a “Free Gaza” protest at the height of the 2014 Gaza conflict, he told a large audience that Israel was carrying out “state-supported terrorism” against Palestinians.

He said: “Since 9/11, the Muslim community have had fingers pointed upon them when it comes to talking about extremism and terrorism. I look to the international community, I look to our government, and I think of double standards; I think of hypocrisy.

“If you want to know what extremism and terrorism is, you go and have a look at what the Israelis are doing to those civilians in Palestine.”

Mr Zaffar, councillor for Birmingham’s Lozells and East Handsworth ward, who formerly served as chair of the authority’s social cohesion group, also told audience members that he would lobby the council to boycott utilities company Veolia over its ties to Israel.

He said: “My final urge to you is, we need to ensure that there is a clear list of companies that are supporting the Zionists out there in Israel. We need to continue to boycott them.”

Since the election of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, at least 20 members – including Bradford West MP Naz Shah and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone – have been suspended from the party amid allegations of antisemitism and racism.

Writing on his website last Thursday, Mr Zaffar said: "There’s no place for antisemitism – not in the Labour Party, not in Birmingham, not anywhere.

"I have been appalled by many of the actions of the Israeli government, but I am not opposed to a Jewish homeland. I believe in a two-state solution: a Jewish homeland and a Palestinian homeland.

"I reject the antisemitism of organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah.

"I have stood up to the far right and extremists who have sought divide us. I value my relationship with Jewish leaders in the city, who have helped develop my resolve to tackle all forms of hate."

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