Boot them out, Keir: Labour council extremism exposed

Incendiary town hall speech suggesting Israel is comparable to Nazis emerges as party reels from string of suspensions


A Labour council leader said “many would remember what justification Hitler had for what he did to the Jews” as he implied that Israel was comparable to the Nazis in a public meeting.

The councillor, Mohammed Iqbal, has since been suspended from the party following the JC's revelations.

His shocking remarks were made in Pendle, Lancashire in an inflammatory speech in which he called for the Palestinian flag to be raised over the town hall.

It was later flown over the Jubilee period, causing outrage. At an earlier meeting, a fellow Labour councillor in Pendle and the town’s mayor, Yasser Iqbal, cited Pastor Niemoller’s famous anti-Nazi poem denouncing those who did not “speak out”, saying those who failed to speak out against Israel were culpable.

The incendiary statements have emerged amid growing political furore over Labour’s failure to weed out candidates with extreme views before the local elections last month. Five have since been suspended by Labour over allegations of extremism, four of them after investigations by the JC.

The former Labour MP and peer Lord Austin called the councillors’ remarks “disgusting”, saying that if party leader Keir Starmer was serious about cutting out extremism, they must be “booted out” immediately. Lord Mann, the former Labour MP who is now the Government antisemitism tsar, told the JC: “Any comparison with the Nazis and Hitler is offensive and breaches the IHRA definition. Politicians can no longer claim they are unaware of this.

“Education is available to improve understanding, but a failure to grasp the offensiveness and demonstrate this publicly is unacceptable and actionable by the appropriate political party.”

The Palestinian flag flew over the town hall last week, until local residents demanded it should be replaced with the Union Flag in the build-up to the Jubilee weekend.

The council motion had also enjoyed the support of Conservative council leader Nadeem Ahmed.

The mayor made his speech citing Niemoller in May 2021. In the debate last month on the flag, Mohammed Iqbal endorsed the citing of Niemolloer, saying: “Mr Mayor, you were right… The fact is, 32,000 innocent people have lost their lives in the Palestinian conflict, yet the world remains silent.” Both Mohammed and Yasser Iqbal were re-elected last month.

Working in conjunction with the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) think- tank, the JC has heard the full recordings of Mohammed and Yasser Iqbal’s speeches.

Their statements may meet the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which says that “contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life” include “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”.

During the debate on the flag, Mohammed 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 justifiction Hitler had for what he did to the Jews in the Second World War. And there are a number of governments across the world at this moment in time, I think, trying to do the same.

Challenged by the JC over his comments, he said he did not mean to say that he supported the justification Hitler gave for the Holocaust. But, he added, "in my view it's entirely appropriate to compare what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians
to what Nazi Germany did to the Jews. International human rights organisations have mentioned the word genocide and I agree with this. "I disagree that this is antisemitic. I have friends who are Jews and Israeli friends who are Jewish and from other faiths." Some Jews had given him their support, he said.

Approached for comment, Yasser Iqbal told the JC to call him later but then failed to respond.

Joy Wallace, elected in Haringey in north London, was suspended on Tuesday after the JC revealed she claimed that a rabbi was “paid” to criticise Jeremy Corbyn, and said Home Secretary Priti Patel was not of Asian heritage, but owed her skin colour to a “strong sunbed”.

The posts had been uncovered by Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS).

Last month, another Haringey Labour councillor, Ibrahim Ali, was suspended after the JC revealed he defended Isis killer Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man” while working for controversial campaigning group, CAGE. Milton Keynes councillor Ansar Hussain was suspended after the JC published allegedly antisemitic posts. Belgiuca Guana who was elected in Newham in east London was suspended on the eve of the polls for sharing an article claiming the “so-called Holocaust” was mere propoaganda.

A fifth councillor, Labina Basit, from the west London borough of Hillingdon, was suspended last week and is also being investigated for alleged antisemitism.

Lord Austin said: “What could be worse than comparing people who survived the Holocaust and set up a safe haven for the Jewish people to the Nazis, who tried to wipe them out? It’s disgusting to have Pastor Niemoller’s words used in this way. These two people are not fit for public office not membership of the Labour Party, and Keir Starmer must boot them out immediately.”

Euan Philipps, from LAAS, told the JC: “Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, as these two Labour councillors appear to have done, is antisemitic under the IHRA definition of antisemitism. It would therefore seem that these councillors warrant serious investigation and disciplinary action, and we hope the Labour Party will be swift and severe if they are found guilty.”

A Labour spokesperson said: "The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken."

Mr Ahmed refused to comment.

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