Labour Party MP Naz Shah was suspended from the party Wednesday as the controversy over her two-year-old Facebook comments calling on Israel to be moved to the United States continued to spark outrage.
A Labour Party statement said that Shah and party leader Jeremy Corbyn “have mutually agreed that she is administratively suspended from the Labour Party by the general secretary.” She will be forbidden from taking part in party activities pending an investigation.
Shah apologized on the floor of the House of Commons, saying that “Anti-Semitism is racism, full stop. As an MP I will do everything in my power to build relationships between Muslims, Jews and people of different faiths and none.”
Shah resigned her position as an aide to Corbyn ally and shadow chancellor John McDonnell on Tuesday after the comments surfaced.
British Prime Minister David Cameron had criticized Labour earlier in the day for not yet suspending Shah. “Anti-Semitism is effectively racism and we should call it out and fight it wherever we see it,” he said. “And the fact that, frankly, we have a Labour Member of Parliament, with the Labour whip, who made remarks about the transportation of Israel to America, and talked about a ‘solution,’ and is still in receipt of the Labour whip is quite extraordinary.” Corbyn acknowledged that the comments were “offensive and unacceptable,” adding that “the Labour Party is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.”
Shah serves on a panel investigating the rise of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, which led Sir Eric Pickles, the UK Envoy on Post-Holocaust Issues, to call for her dismissal from the committee.
Corbyn has been struggling for months against frequent accusations that he is not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism in his party. Cameron called on Corbyn to address the anti-Semitism issue within the Labour Party last month, following the resignation of the co-president of the Oxford University Labour Club, who said that members of the club “have some kind of problem with Jews.” But frustrations with Corbyn’s approach have continued to arise.
Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC Television, said last week that a Jew voting for Labour under Corbyn would be like a Muslim voting for Donald Trump. Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate for mayor of London, said two weeks ago that anti-Semitism in Labour was a “badge of shame” for the party. Local Labour activists Gerry Downing, who had written about the need to “address the Jewish Question,” and Vicki Kirby, a former parliamentary candidate who once tweeted that Adolf Hitler might be the “Zionist God,” were readmitted to the party under Corbyn, only to be re-expelled in March following public outcries.
Reports emerged last month that most Jewish Labour MPs were on Corbyn’s “enemies list.” Longtime Labour MP Louise Ellman, who is the vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel and was reportedly on that list, said two months ago that Corbyn “has spoken out clearly that he is against anti-Semitism but it is not just about words, there has got to be some action, and we haven’t seen enough of that.” Ellman has been the target of abuse from Momentum, a grassroots organization founded to support the opposition leader. Corbyn himself has been criticized for praising Hamas and Hezbollah and meeting with Holocaust deniers and promoters of the blood libel before reaching his current position.
Shah was elected in 2015 to represent Bradford West in Yorkshire, in the north of England. She defeated the incumbent George Galloway, who in 2014 declared Bradford to be an “Israel-free zone,” which led him to be questioned by the police for possibly inciting racial hatred.
For more on Jeremy Corbyn and the rise of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, read Western Europe’s Most Powerful Anti-Zionist, Liam Hoare’s profile of Corbyn, which was published in the October 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine.
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