LONDON — The left-wing leader of Britain’s Labour Party is under fire for refusing to immediately suspend one of his Muslim members of Parliament after it emerged that she had posted anti-Semitic messages on Facebook.
Jeremy Corbyn said comments about transporting Jews out of Israel to live in the United States and comparing Israel to Nazi Germany were “offensive and unacceptable,” but he initially declined to take further action against Naz Shah.
Corbyn, who was an antiwar protest leader before his shock election to lead the Labour Party, has been accused of tolerating anti-Semitism in the past alongside the anti-Western sentiment often heard within the protest movement.
He eventually sanctioned the party to suspend Shah pending an investigation after overwhelming coverage of the politician’s words.
Prime Minister David Cameron called on him to suspend Shah from the Labour Party on Wednesday.
“Anti-Semitism is racism and we should call it out and fight it wherever we see it,” he said. “The fact that we have got a Labour member of Parliament with the Labour whip who made remarks about the transportation of people from Israel to America and talked about a ‘solution’ is quite extraordinary.”
Shah was elected to represent Bradford West last year, ousting the controversial MP George Galloway in one of the most heavily Muslim areas of Britain.
She was hailed as a breath of fresh air at the time after Galloway had been accused of anti-Semitism when he declared Bradford to be an “Israel-free zone.”
Just eight months before her election she shared a post featuring an image of Martin Luther King in police custody that equated Israel with Nazi Germany.
Before that she shared an illustrated map that showed how Israelis could be moved to the American Midwest—adding the caption “problem solved.”
The graphic claimed that since the U.S. was Israel’s biggest supporter it should have no problem incorporating Israel as a 51st state.
Shah resigned as aide to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Tuesday and issued a formal apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“I wholeheartedly apologize to this House for the words I used before I became a member. I accept and understand that the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that,” she said.
“Anti-Semitism is racism, full stop. As an MP I will do everything in my power to build relations between Muslims, Jews, and people of different faiths and none.”
A few hours later she was suspended from the Labour Party.
Shah is a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is embarking on a study of how to tackle anti-Semitism in Britain. Conservative politicians have suggested that she should also be removed from the committee.
The pressure on Corbyn to act did not come purely from opposition parties. A member of his Shadow Cabinet went on live TV to tell her leader to act.
“I made clear my view to the leader’s office that we should suspend anybody who makes anti-Semitic remarks, in line with our policy, and investigate,” said Lisa Nandy, who is considered one of the few Labour MPs loyal to Corbyn.
“There is a real problem for the Labour Party if we don’t look like we are taking these things seriously. But this is not just about the impact on the Labour Party, there is also the question here about what is the right thing to do.”