UK Labour MP suggests Israel funding lawmakers who’ve bolted over anti-Semitism
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UK Labour MP suggests Israel funding lawmakers who’ve bolted over anti-Semitism

Ruth George later apologizes for her comments, saying she had no intention of ‘invoking a conspiracy theory’

Screen capture from video of UK Labour party MP Ruth George during a television interview, February 2018. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of UK Labour party MP Ruth George during a television interview, February 2018. (YouTube)

A lawmaker for the UK’s Labour Party on Tuesday said it was possible that Israel was providing financial support for a group of MPs who had left the party citing internal anti-Semitism as one of their prime motives.

Ruth George, Labour MP for the High Peak constituency, later apologized for her comments, saying she had no intention of “invoking a conspiracy theory.”

George, a staunch supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, made the remarks in a Facebook comment on a photo of the seven breakaway MPs that had the word “Israelis” underneath it. An eighth MP quit on Tuesday.

George wrote she would “condemn the calling of anyone as an Israeli when it is not the case” but that the mention of Israel “appears not to refer to the independent MPs but to their financial backers.”

“Support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel of which Luciana was chair is possible,” she wrote, referring to former Labour MP Luciana Berger, one of the MPS who left the Labour Party. “I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group’s financial backers are not being revealed. It is important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy.”

Her remarks prompted a storm of criticism on social media prompting her to post an apology on her Facebook page.

“I unreservedly and wholeheartedly apologize for my comment. I had no intention of invoking a conspiracy theory and I am deeply sorry that my ill-thought out and poorly worded comment did this. I withdraw it completely,” she wrote

On my earlier response to a Facebook comment, I unreservedly and wholeheartedly apologise for my comment. I had no…

Posted by Ruth George MP for High Peak on Tuesday, 19 February 2019

According to a Tuesday report from the BBC,  the breakaway faction, called the Independent Group, is not yet a registered political party and therefore is not required to disclose donations or other revenue resources.

On its official website, the Independent Group says it is backed by the Gemini A company and a donation page declares “We don’t have the big money or infrastructure of the political parties.”

Gemini A is a limited company registered to an address in the Greater Manchester metropolitan area in the UK, the BBC reported.

The seven Labour legislators quit the party Monday, accusing Corbyn of failing to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party and of mounting a weak opposition to Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for leaving the European Union.

“This has been a very difficult, painful but necessary decision,” one of the MPs, Luciana Berger, said at a hastily arranged press conference in London, calling her former party “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

The newly  independent lawmakers hope to gain members from among disgruntled pro-Europeans in both the Labour and Conservative parties.

On Tuesday, Joan Ryan, who headed the Labour Friends of Israel group, became the eighth lawmaker to quit the party.

Former Labour MP and chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan (Times of Israel staff)

Earlier this month, Berger, who is Jewish, faced a no confidence vote, later canceled, by local party members who said she was “continuously criticizing” leader Jeremy Corbyn amid the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the party.

The lawmakers who made the initial announcement were Berger, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Anne Coffey.

Many Labour lawmakers are unhappy with the party’s direction under Corbyn, a veteran socialist who took charge in 2015 with strong grassroots backing.

They have accused him of mounting a weak opposition to the Conservative government’s plans for leaving the European Union, and of failing to curb anti-Jewish prejudice in the party.

The quitters are only a fraction of Labour’s 256 lawmakers, but it is the biggest split in the party since four senior members quit in 1981 to form the Social Democratic Party.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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