Naz Shah says sorry for ‘hurtful, inexcusable’ posts and pledges to win back trust of Jewish community


Labour MP Naz Shah has apologised for the series of social media posts she made about Jews and Israel which led to her resigning as a parliamentary secretary to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Ms Shah, the Bradford West MP, said the “manner and tone” of her posts was “not excusable”.

She said that since entering Parliament last year she had worked to build bridges with the Jewish community.

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 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.

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.

In her apology today, speaking to a newspaper, Ms Shah said: “I am sorry… 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.

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.”

Ms Shah said that when she made the posts, during the Gaza conflict in 2014, “feelings were running high”.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I’m shocked myself at the language I used in some instances during the Gaza-Israel conflict. For this I apologise.”

The MP said she had attended an interfaith Seder with Reform Movement Senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner last year, and had been asked to consider joining the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews.

She concluded: “For those that I have caused hurt to, particularly the Jewish community, my constituents, friends and family, I sincerely hope my intentions and actions from here on in will win back your trust and faith in me. For my part I promise to have open and honest conversations about such issues and invite others to do that with me.”

This morning, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement on the episode.

He said: "What Naz Shah 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 antisemitism and all forms of racism.”

There have been calls for Labour to suspend Ms Shah and remove the party whip.

The party has declined to comment on whether further action will be taken.

During Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, David Cameron said it was "quite extraordinary" that the Labour whip had not been removed from Ms Shah.

Answering a question from Conservative Suella Fernandes on tackling hatred, MP Mr Cameron said: "Antisemitism is effectively racism, we should call it out and fight it wherever we see it.

"Frankly, the fact we have a Labour MP, with the Labour whip, who made comments about the 'transportation' of people from Israel to America... and is still in receipt of the Labour whip, is quite extraordinary."

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

"She has stood down as a PPS but if Labour had a shred of decency she would be immediately suspended from the party."

He said the decision by Labour not to suspend Ms Shah was "a disgraceful decision and Jeremy Corbyn ought to be ashamed of himself.

"It is a huge test of leadership for Jeremy Corbyn. He now needs to face up and address this issue, and suspend her immediately or he will send a very clear message to the people of Britain and in particular to the Jewish community."

Labour MP Louise Ellman told the JC: "I'm calling for her suspension from the Labour Party.

"She should play no part in the Home Affairs Select Committee's antisemitism inquiry. She should be suspended from the party while they investigate. I don't think her statement should be a substitute."

Mrs Ellman said Ms Shah's decision to step down as John McDonnell's PPS was "the least she could do".

Shadow energy secretary, Lisa Nandy, told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme that she believed Labour should “suspend anybody who makes antisemitic comments, in line with our policy, and investigate it”.

The Community Security Trust said: "CST welcomes Naz Shah MP’s further apologies, in Parliament and in her newspaper remarks. We hope this can help kick start a constructive process for all concerned."

The Jewish Labour Movement chairman Jeremy Newmark said: "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 Galloway 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 on her apology and contrition with a programme of education and action that includes standing up to antisemitism on the left and within the Palestine Solidarity Movement."

Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said Mr Corbyn should go further than giving Ms Shah "a minor slap on the wrist".

Mr Arkush said: “Disciplinary sanctions do need to be considered. We will be meeting Ms Shah in the near future when we shall be asking her some very serious questions.

"This latest unsavoury episode further demonstrates that antisemitism has found a home far too readily in some quarters and the Labour Party must now take urgent steps to confront and take effective action to deal with it.”

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