POLITICS

Labour MP Naz Shah Quits As John McDonnell Aide Over Israel Facebook Posts

26/04/2016 14:46
Rex Features

A Labour MP has stepped down from her position as aide to shadow chancellor John McDonnell after issuing an "unreserved" apology for a social media posting in which she appeared to endorse the relocation of Israelis to the US.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah said she "deeply regretted" the hurt caused by her comments and accepted there was "no excuse" for the offence they caused.

In a Facebook post in 2014, before she became an MP, Shah shared a graphic which showed an image of Israel's outline superimposed onto a map of the US under the headline "Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict - Relocate Israel into United States", with the comment "problem solved".

Philip Toscano/PA Wire

The post suggested the US has "plenty of land" to accommodate Israel as a 51st state, allowing Palestinians to "get their life and their land back".

It added that Israeli people would be welcome and safe in the US while the "transportation cost" would be less than three years' worth of Washington's support for Israeli defence spending.

Shah added a note suggesting the plan might "save them some pocket money".

After the posting was highlighted by the Guido Fawkes website, Shah released a statement in which she said: "This post from two years ago was made before I was an MP, does not reflect my views and I apologise for any offence it has caused."

Campaigners against anti-Semitism continued to raise concerns, with one group saying it would be "hard" for them to take seriously an inquiry into anti-Semitism being conducted by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee so long as she remained a member.

In a second statement, Shah announced she was standing down from her unpaid role as McDonnell's parliamentary private secretary.

"I deeply regret the hurt I have caused by comments made on social media before I was elected as an MP," she said.

"I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high around the Middle East conflict. But that is no excuse for the offence I have given, for which I unreservedly apologise.

"In recognition of that offence, I have stepped down from my role as PPS to the shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

"I will be seeking to expand my existing engagement and dialogue with Jewish community organisations and will be stepping up my efforts to combat all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism."

Speaking before Shah's second statement, Jonathan Sacerdoti, director of communications at the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: "One cannot simply apologise for 'any offence caused' and expect evidence of gross and brazen anti-Semitism to disappear.

"Once again the Labour Party has been revealed to have within its ranks people who express extreme prejudice towards Jewish people in their public statements.

"Once again the party has failed to find these statements itself, and reject those who freely and willingly express them.

"How can we believe Labour when it says it takes the problem of Jew-hatred seriously when it repeatedly defends anti-Semitic MPs? It seems that Jeremy Corbyn's anti-racism policy only operates when convenient."

He added: "We have offered to assist the select committee in its work investigating anti-Semitism. However, if Naz Shah remains on the committee it will be hard for those of us giving evidence to take the inquiry seriously."

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