UK’s Labour drops candidate who linked Holocaust to Gaza ‘ghetto being shelled’
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UK’s Labour drops candidate who linked Holocaust to Gaza ‘ghetto being shelled’

Local party branch removes Michelle Harris from shortlist after vitriolic statements on Israel 'came to the attention of the committee'

British opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) walks near Portcullis House in central London on June 28, 2016.(AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)
British opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) walks near Portcullis House in central London on June 28, 2016.(AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

Amid ongoing concerns over the British Labour Party’s handling of anti-Semitism in its ranks, the party scrapped the candidacy of an activist who said Holocaust victims who “died with dignity must be turning in their graves” over how “Gaza is a ghetto being shelled.”

Michelle Harris was removed Tuesday from the shortlist of potential Labour candidates to represent the Hastings and Rye constituency in the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament, the local branch of the party said in a statement.

In 2014, Harris wrote on Twitter, “I have often said that the Holocaust victims who died with dignity must be turning in their graves at the horrors done in the name of Judaism. Gaza is a ghetto being shelled.”

On Facebook, she posted in 2015 a banner reading: “Pregnant Palestinian women were deliberately shot by Israeli snipers during the recent Gaza genocide.” And in 2016 she accused Israel of “state racism” against Ethiopian Jews.

“The Parliamentary Selection Committee decided to remove Michelle Harris from the shortlist,” the constituency’s statement read. “This was a retrospective decision when new information came to the attention of the committee.” It did specifically not name her vitriol on Israel as the reason for the removal.

The move is the latest development in a row that has been brewing in Labour’s ranks since 2015, when Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing politician who has called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends,” was elected to head Labour, which for decades had been a political home for British Jews.

Britain’s Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn gestures as he arrives for the declaration at his constituency in London, Friday, June 9, 2017. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

Under Corbyn, thousands of people, many from the far-left, joined Labour, in a development that leaders of British Jewry said has generated an anti-Semitism problem in the party’s ranks, which means that “most people in the Jewish community can’t trust Labour,” as Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said in 2016. A British parliamentary committee of inquiry in 2016 upheld claims that the party’s leadership is failing to confront seriously anti-Semitism in its ranks.

Amid unprecedented media attention to Labour’s anti-Semitism problem, Corbyn vowed to kick out anyone making racist statements. Dozens of Labour members have been kicked out on rhetoric deemed anti-Semitic, but many others have been allowed to stay or were re-admitted, including Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor who suggested the Nazis were pro-Zionist.

Last year, Labour passed internal regulations that were meant to facilitate the expulsion of anti-Semites by its disciplinary board, but stopped short of defining what the party considers anti-Semitic. The party also commissioned an internal audit headed by activist Shami Chakrabarti, which found that anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Labour’s ranks despite the emergence of “occasionally toxic atmosphere” among some members. But the Board of Deputies dismissed the report as a “whitewash.”

In a separate move that critics said diminishes Labour’s ability to confront anti-Semites, the head of the British party’s disciplinary panel earlier this week was replaced with an activist loyal to Corbyn.

Ann Black was ousted Tuesday in a vote by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee, the Daily Mirror reported, and replaced with Christine Shawcroft, a key activist in Corbyn’s Momentum Campaign within Labour. The disciplinary panel is responsible, among other things, for recommending a disciplinary review for members believed to have voiced anti-Semitic rhetoric.

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