UK Labour suspends MP over anti-Semitism comments

Chris Williamson, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, suspended after saying Labour was "too apologetic" over anti-Semitism allegations.

Elad Benari,

Chris Williamson with Jeremy Corbyn
Chris Williamson with Jeremy Corbyn
Reuters

Britain's Labour party on Wednesday suspended one of its MPs, a close ally of leader Jeremy Corbyn, after he claimed the party had been "too apologetic" over a tide of anti-Semitism allegations against it, AFP reports.

The move followed video footage emerging of lawmaker Chris Williamson telling a meeting of the left-wing Momentum activist group, "We have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic."

Williamson was speaking in Sheffield, northern England, in the wake of the resignations of nine Labour MPs last week, with many alleging a growing culture of anti-Semitism within the party under veteran socialist Corbyn's watch.

He told the audience he had sung Kool and the Gang's 1980 hit "Celebration" in response to their decisions to quit the party.

Labour said it has suspended Williamson pending an investigation and that his pattern of behavior would be reviewed by staff.

"Chris Williamson is suspended from the party, and therefore the whip, pending investigation," said a Labour spokesman, according to AFP.

Labour had already branded Williamson's actions "completely unacceptable" after he booked a room in parliament for the screening of a film about an activist suspended over anti-Semitism complaints.

In a statement, Williamson said, "I deeply regret, and apologize for, my recent choice of words. I was trying to stress how much the party has done to tackle anti-Semitism."

He told the BBC, "I am going to clear my name within the party procedures. I think I've got a very strong case. There is no evidence against me in reality."

Williamson is one among dozens of Labour members who have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements in recent years.

Corbyn himself has been accused of holding anti-Semitic views by senior UK Jewish leaders. Corbyn has also been criticized for calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for outright refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.

Much of the criticism against Corbyn is over his playing down the anti-Semitism in his party and alienating Jews.

Corbyn insists he is not an anti-Semite. In an interview with the BBC in September of 2018 he described anti-Semitism “as a scourge in any society, I have opposed it all my life…I have spent my whole life opposing racism in any form and I will die fighting racism."

Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, responded to Williamson’s suspension by saying, "This is a man who has baited Jews and befriended Labour activists suspended or expelled over anti-Semitism for years.”

"It is outrageous that he is only being investigated now, and that it is only happening in response to a public outcry," he added.




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