Senior UK Labour lawmaker calls for suspension of new MP in anti-Semitism row

Senior UK Labour lawmaker calls for suspension of new MP in anti-Semitism row

Dame Louise Ellman says Lisa Forbes should lose whip during probe; 2nd MP subject of complaints over alleged Jew hatred, including taunting staff member over Star of David

Lisa Forbes of the Labour Party accepts her win for the local seat after all votes are in and counted at the Kingsgate Conference Centre in Peterborough, England on June 6, 2019. (Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)
Lisa Forbes of the Labour Party accepts her win for the local seat after all votes are in and counted at the Kingsgate Conference Centre in Peterborough, England on June 6, 2019. (Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

Senior British Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman on Saturday called for the suspension of a newly-elected MP who had apologized for liking an anti-Semitic post on social media and narrowly won a closely watched by-election for the British Parliament.

Lisa Forbes had drawn criticism earlier this week after it emerged she had liked a Facebook post that said British Prime Minister Theresa May had a “Zionist Slave Masters agenda.” She also commented: “I have enjoyed reading this thread so much” on a post that repeated the conspiracy theory that the Mossad and CIA are behind the Islamic State terror group.

Ellman said that Forbes should be suspended while an investigation took place.

“These serious allegations must not be brushed under the carpet,” Ellman said, according to The Times. “Lisa Forbes should be suspended while the Labour Party conducts an investigation.”

Louise Ellman (courtesy)

The Jewish Labour Movement also called for Forbes to be suspended.

Forbes has said it was a misunderstanding and apologized, adding that she would nevertheless take anti-Semitism awareness training.

However, a joint statement by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust said this week that her excuse that she had not seen the anti-Semitic content “stretches the limits of credulity, especially given the high profile problems in Labour and the previous anti-Semitism scandals in Peterborough Labour circles.”

Forbes had also signed a letter opposing Labour’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s definition of anti-Semitism, saying members should be free to criticize Israel’s “system of apartheid and ongoing ethnic cleansing,” according to the Jewish Chronicle. The letter expressed backing for boycotts of Israel.

The Forbes revelations were the latest scandal to rock Labour, which has been dogged by allegations of harboring anti-Semitic elements, driving many Jews away from a party once considered their natural home.

The Labour Against Antisemitism group called her election a “dark day,” and urged the party’s leadership to suspend her. It said it had expected party members to distance themselves from Forbes once the social media activity became public.

“Instead we witnessed the unedifying spectacle of dozens of Labour MPs — many of whom moderates, who had signed a letter of solidarity with the Jewish Labour Movement as recently as March — streaming up to Peterborough over the last few days to support a candidate who should have been taken off the ballot paper on Sunday,” the group said.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn campaigns for Lisa Forbes in Peterborough, England, on June 1, 2019. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

A number of Labour MPs who have been critical of the party’s role in tackling anti-Semitism also expressed discomfort with Forbes’s win.

Margaret Hodge said she had raised her concerns with the party’s leadership.

“Seriously mixed feelings about the Peterborough result. I never want to see Nigel Farage’s party in Parliament. But Lisa Forbes & the Labour Party have a lot to answer for. We must learn lessons & never have a repeat of this,” she tweeted.

“I didn’t want to see the Brexit Party win, but it is no good to see Labour people demanding loyalty on the basis of being the lesser of two evils. There is no hierarchy of racism or prejudice. Antisemitism must never become normalised or more politically acceptable than any other form of discrimination,” wrote MP Wes Streeting. “I’ve given up hope that this Labour leadership can prove me wrong, but I have not given up hope that the new MP for Peterborough can be true to her apology and show genuine contrition.”

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

MP Jess Phillips said: “Lisa ignored and endorsed antisemitic things . . . with every case the party’s values chip away and our ability to stand up against hate erodes.”

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald told the BBC he was “discomfited” with Forbes’s anti-Semitic social media activity, but noted that she had apologized.

Forbes squeaked past Brexit Party candidate Mike Green in the special election in the eastern English city of Peterborough, as the new Euro-skeptic party helmed by anti-EU populist Nigel Farage failed to win its first seat in Britain’s parliament.

The Times also reported Saturday that Labour MP Rupa Huq is the subject of complaints by former staff members over alleged anti-Semitism. Huq denied the claims, one of which was said to include a 2,500-word dossier of alleged incidents of Jew hatred, saying they are “false and malicious.”

Labour MP for Ealing, Rupa Huq, in 2015. (CC-BY-SA 4.0 – Wikimedai/Rathfelder)

In one complaint, Huq is accused of taunting a then-staffer over a Star of David badge on his bag.

A second complainant said Huq had a former employee “listen to her conspiracy theories surrounding the Jewish community.”

Last month the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission announced it had launched a formal investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

The EHRC, the main government anti-racism watchdog, said it would probe whether the main opposition party led by Jeremy Corbyn had discriminated against, harassed or victimized Jews in violation of the UK’s 2006 Equality Act.

A formal investigation is rare step by the commission, which last investigated a political party in 2010, when it probed the far-right British National Party’s ban on minorities.

It may compel the Labour Party to reveal details of its handling of anti-Semitism in recent years, including internal communications such as text messages and emails.

Jewish groups have accused Corbyn, a far-left politician, of allowing a massive surge in anti-Semitism within the ranks of the party that was once considered the natural home of British Jewry. Thousands of cases of alleged hate speech against Jews have been recorded within Labour since 2015, when Corbyn was elected to lead the party.

AFP contributed to this report.

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