Labour suspends another councillor over more Israel comments

Labour suspends another councillor over more Israel comments
Ilya sAziz. Pic: Facebook

The Labour Party in England has suspended a councillor over social media posts, including a suggestion that Israel should be relocated to the United States.

Nottingham City councillor Ilyas Aziz has been suspended pending an investigation in the latest row over controversial comments to hit the party.

The move comes after Jeremy Corbyn insisted the party is "united" in opposing anti-Semitism in the wake of a turbulent week which has also seen the suspension of MP Naz Shah and former London mayor Ken Livingstone.

A Labour spokeswoman said: "Ilyas Aziz has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation."

Among Facebook posts from Mr Aziz's account highlighted on the Guido Fawkes website was a comment saying: "Jews and Muslims lived together in the Middle East, in peace pre 1948. Perhaps it would have been wiser to create Israel in America it's big enough. They could relocate even now."

Mr Corbyn has announced an independent review and pledged to tighten party codes of conduct on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in a bid to put a lid on the furore.

But he faced calls from Israeli politicians and diplomats to give a more "unequivocal" condemnation and warnings - including from the party's London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan - that the party would be punished in the May 5 elections.

The speed with which Labour acted in Mr Aziz's case comes after opponents accused Mr Corbyn of responding too slowly to deal with incidents - most notably his ally Mr Livingstone's incendiary assertion, while defending Ms Shah, that Hitler was supporting Zionism before he "went mad and ended up killing six million Jews".

Ken Livingstone.
Ken Livingstone.

Over the weekend allies launched a ferocious fightback and warned critics they had no chance of ousting the leader.

Shadow cabinet minister Diane Abbott said it was "a smear to say that the Labour Party has a problem with anti-Semitism".

Mr Livingstone's comments linking Hitler with Zionism - for which he has declined to apologise in a string of media interviews - were "extremely offensive", she told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, but not part of any wider pattern.

"Two hundred thousand people have joined the Labour Party. Are you saying that because there have been 12 reported incidents of hate speech online, that the Labour Party is somehow intrinsically anti-Semitic?"

She said she would be "dismayed if some people were hurling around accusations of anti-Semitism as part of some intra-Labour Party dispute".

Unite union leader Len McCluskey told the Guardian that Mr Corbyn's critics included some "treacherous" MPs who had been setting "traps" for the Labour leader.

A poll carried out as the controversy unfolded gave the Conservatives an eight-point lead, and experts tip Labour to lose up to 150 council seats in England and face a hard night in elections to the Scottish and Welsh governments.

Israel's new ambassador to Britain said parts of the left were "in denial" about anti-Semitism and criticised Mr Corbyn's links to groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

"There has to be an unequivocal message from leadership saying that there is no solidarity with anti-Semites," Mark Regev said.

The leader of the Labour opposition party in Tel Aviv said recent events needed to act as a "red alert" that urgent action was required.

In an open letter to his UK counterpart, Israel's Labour leader Isaac Herzog invited Mr Corbyn to lead a delegation to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel to help "engage and better understand the scourge of anti-Semitism".

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said: "We hope that the new inquiry will mark the beginning of a more certain and clear Labour attitude against anti-Semitism, from the leader to the grassroots, including clarity about people and groups with whom it is not appropriate to share panels."

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