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Labour MP Kate Osamor has whip suspended over Holocaust memorial post referring to Gaza

MP for Edmonton in north London sparked backlash by posting a message on Holocaust Memorial Day referring to other genocides

Tom Watling ,Kate Devlin
Monday 29 January 2024 14:01 GMT
Related video: Emotional Labour MP urges government to 'end bloodshed' in Gaza

A Labour MP has been suspended over a Holocaust Memorial Day post suggesting the Israeli action in Gaza is genocide.

An investigation has now been launched over the post on X made by Kate Osamor, the MP for Edmonton in north London, on Friday.

In her message, Ms Osamor wrote: “Tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial Day, an international day to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the millions of other people murdered under Nazi persecution of other groups and more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and now Gaza.”

Her remarks came on the same day judges at the International Court of Justice in the Hague said they found it “plausible” that Israel has committed acts in Gaza that violate the Genocide Convention during a landmark case brought against them by South Africa.

But her reference to genocide in Gaza drew huge criticism, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews issuing a statement saying it “unreservedly condemn(s) the attempts by Kate Osamor to link the Holocaust to the current situation in Gaza”.

The Jewish Labour Movement also condemned the “inappropriate and offensive” remarks.

“Sadly Kate Osamor MP used Holocaust Memorial Day to make an inappropriate and offensive comparison to the war in Gaza. Her subsequent non-apology rang hollow,” the group said in a statement.

“These days, we know the Labour Party is better than this. We join others, including her own CLP, in calling on Labour to suspend her while they investigate.”

Following the backlash, but before her suspension, the MP for Edmonton in north London issued an apology “for any offence caused”.

When referencing the situation in Gaza in a subsequent post, she opted to describe it as a “humanitarian disaster” as opposed to a “genocide”.

“Holocaust Memorial Day is a day to remember the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the genocides that have occurred since,” she posted on X on Friday. “I apologise for any offence caused by my reference to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Gaza as part of that period of remembrance.”

A Labour source confirmed on Sunday evening that the chief whip has suspended Ms Osamor from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) pending an investigation.

A spokesperson for Momentum, the left-wing activist group set up while Jeremy Corbyn was leader, offered its support to the suspended MP – suggesting that racism was behind Labour’s approach to disciplinary issues.

“This outrageous decision further damages Labour’s reputation for anti-racism under Keir Starmer, and should be immediately reversed,” they said. “Just two days ago, the International Court of Justice found that Israel had a plausible case to answer on genocide in regards to its brutal and inhumane war on Gaza.

“But instead of echoing this call to stop a potential genocide, Keir Starmer is attacking those calling it out. We call on all in Labour to resist this shameful and opportunistic attempt to hound another Black woman out of the party.”

A senior figure on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) also suggested that racism and misogyny were behind her suspension – accusing Sir Keir’s team of “double standards”.

Mish Rahman – a socialist member of the NEC and vice-chairman of Momentum – said there were “clear double standards in how Labour treats the cases of Steve Reed and Barry to that of Diane Abbott and Kate Osamor”.

The left-winger added on X, formerly Twitter: “Like Steve, Kate too apologised and deleted swiftly but Kate got suspended and Steve not. I wonder what the difference is?”

Mr Rahman was previously blocked from becoming the party’s parliamentary candidate in Wolverhampton West.

South Africa brought the allegations of genocide to the International Court of Justice (REUTERS)

UN judges in the Hague said on Friday that Israel must ensure its forces do not commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

The 17-strong panel said it would not throw out the genocide case against Israel and that it must provide basic humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip – but it stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.

South Africa had asked for the court to order Israel to halt its operation, which has laid waste to much of the Strip and killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

The Israeli military’s attacks on Gaza followed a deadly attack by Hamas on 7 October that killed more than 1,100 people and led to roughly 240 being taken hostage.

The former shadow development secretary Ms Osamor, who served in Jeremy Corbyn’s top team, is the second Labour MP to apologise for remarks about the war in Gaza this week.

Tahir Ali accused Rishi Sunak of having “the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands” over his response to the conflict.

Labour MP Tahir Ali apologised after accusing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of having ‘the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands’ over his response to the Israel-Gaza war (PA Media)

The comments in the House of Commons prompted the Labour leadership to quickly distance itself and Mr Ali later posted an apology on X, formerly Twitter.

“Earlier at PMQs I asked the prime minister about the actions of Israel in Gaza. This is obviously a deeply emotive issue,” he said.

“While I do not resile from my strongly held views on the situation in the Middle East, I would like to apologise for the way in which I described the prime minister in my question.”

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