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‘I didn't get anti-Semitism as racism,’ says Labour MP Naz Shah

'The language that I used was anti-Semitic, it was offensive. What I did was I hurt people'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 18 July 2016 14:22 BST
Labour MP Naz Shah
Labour MP Naz Shah (Rex)

Naz Shah has said the comments which resulted in her suspension from the Labour party were anti-Semitic but, at the time, she “didn’t get anti-Semitism as racism”.

Ms Shah, the Bradford West MP, was suspended from the party in April amid controversy over a social media post appearing to endorse the relocation of Israelis to the US. Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee, has since reinstated Ms Shah.

In a Facebook post in 2014, before she became MP for Bradford West, Ms Shah shared a graphic which showed an image of Israel's outline superimposed onto a map of the US under the headline "Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict – Relocate Israel into United States", with the comment “problem solved”.

Asked by BBC Radio 4’s World at One what she thought when she now looked back at the posts, Ms Shah replied: “How stupid I was and how ignorant I was. At the time, I didn’t understand it.

“The language that I used was anti-semitic, it was offensive. What I did was I hurt people and…the clear anti-semitic language, which I didn’t know at the time, was when I said the Jews are rallying. Now that is anti-semitic.

“I wasn’t anti-semitic, what I put out was anti-semitic,” she added.

"I didn't get anti-Semitism as racism," said Ms Shah. "I had never come across it. I think what I had was an ignorance."

Naz Shah apology

Asked whether she thought “silly” for not knowing that it was anti-semitic, she added: “Of course. I will always own my ignorance and it was ignorant. Let’s be clear about it. It has been a journey that I’ve been on… I’ve had amazing compassion from the Jewish community. And I have to earn that trust. I have to be able to say ‘this is what I did’.

Ms Shah also explained her initial reaction to the furore: "One of the tough conversations I had to have with myself was about, God, am I anti-Semitic?

"And I had to really question my heart of hearts. Yes, I have ignorance, yes everybody has prejudice, sub conscious biases, but does that make me anti-Semitic? And the answer was no, I do not have a hatred of Jewish people."

The Guido Fawkes website - which published the post - also pointed to another made before Ms Shah was an MP, which used the hashtag #IsraelApartheid above a quote saying: “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal”.

When the comments first emerged Ms Shah, in a statement to the House of Commons, apologised saying she accepted and understood that “the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that”.

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