UK

Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP, Criticised For Gaza Holocaust Comparison

07/02/2014 16:42 GMT | Updated 07/02/2014 17:59 GMT

UPDATE:

Yasmin Qureshi has apologised for any offence caused: “The debate was about the plight of the Palestinian people and in no way did I mean to equate events in Gaza with the Holocaust. I apologise for any offence caused. I am also personally hurt if people thought I meant this.

“As someone who has visited the crematoria and gas chambers of Auschwitz I know the Holocaust was the most brutal act of genocide of the 20th Century and no-one should seek to underestimate its impact.”

The Labour Party has stood by comments made by MP Yasmin Qureshi made in the House of Commons earlier this week, in which she appeared to equate the sufferings of the Palestinians to the Holocaust.

The Bolton South-East MP, who was speaking as part of a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, said: "What has struck me in all this is that the state of Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide.

"Their properties, homes and land – everything – were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished.

yasmin qureshi

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi has refused to apologise for a statement in the House of Commons

“It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza.”

LabourList editor Mark Ferguson said the quotes were damaging, and that Qureshi should apologise, calling to comparison "grotesque".

"Qureshi appears to be comparing the situation in Gaza with the mechanised and industrial extermination of an entire people. I’m afraid that however strong your feelings are on the undoubted injustices that the people of Gaza have faced, they are not seeing anything comparable to the holocaust," he blogged.

A Labour party spokesman said that the "remarks were taken completely out of context", despite the official transcript having appeared on Hansad.

"Yasmin Qureshi was not equating events in Gaza with the Holocaust," the spokesman said.

"As an MP who has visited Auschwitz and has campaigned all her life against racism and anti-Semitism she would not do so.”

Qureshi could not be reached directly for comment.

Karen Pollock, Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive, told the Jewish Chronicle: "While current events in the Middle East understandably stir emotions, it is astonishing to think that anyone could visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, learn about the industrial nature of the Nazi's murderous regime, even walk through a gas chamber - and then make these offensive and inappropriate comparisons.

"We expect our politicians to speak responsibly and sensitively about the past and about events today. These lazy and deliberate distortions have no place in British politics."

Last year, Liberal Democrat MP David Ward had the whip temporarily suspended for comments he made about how "the Jews" had not learnt the lessons of the Holocaust because of atrocities in Gaza.

On his website, after signing a memorial book to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Ward wrote that he was "saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis".

After initially issuing a strong defence of his words, he subsequently apologised.