Naz Shah: My words were anti-Semitic

By Becky Milligan
World at One, BBC Radio 4

  • Published
Media caption,

Naz Shah blames ignorance for posts she admits were anti-Semtiic

Labour MP Naz Shah has said the comments which saw her suspended from the party were anti-Semitic.

Ms Shah apologised in April for online posts, including one suggesting Israel should be moved to the United States.

Labour has now reinstated the Bradford West MP, who in her first interview about the controversy blamed her "ignorance".

"I wasn't anti-Semitic, what I put out was anti-Semitic," Ms Shah told BBC Radio 4's World At One.

In a Facebook post in 2014, before she became an MP, Ms Shah shared a graphic showing an image of Israel's outline superimposed on a map of the US under the headline "Solution for Israel-Palestine conflict - relocate Israel into United States", with the comment "problem solved".

The post was brought to light by the Guido Fawkes website, which also highlighted a post in which she appeared to liken Israeli policies to those of Hitler.

At the time, Ms Shah said the posts had been written during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict when emotions had been running high - although she said that was not an excuse.

Now the MP, who also resigned as PPS to shadow chancellor John McDonnell, says she wishes she had apologised as soon as she was approached about the posts.

Instead she waited until a story about them was published.

The MP said that when she looked back she thought "how stupid I was and how ignorant I was".

"The truth is that some of the stuff I have since looked at and understood, I didn't know at the time," she said.

Ms Shah said she now understood the connotations involved in the words she used.

"The language I used was anti-Semitic, it was offensive," she said. "What I did was I hurt people and the language that was the clear anti-Semitic language, which I didn't know at the time, was when I said, 'The Jews are rallying.'"

Image source, Rob Stothard
Image caption,
Ken Livingstone remains suspended over claims of anti-Semitism in his defence of Shah

Ms Shah said she had been on a learning journey in recent months and had received "amazing compassion" from the Jewish community.

"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."

She said she had been party to conversations about the Israel-Gaza conflict, about unilateral British and American support for Israel, which might have influenced her.

To understand anti-Semitism, people had to understand the conversations which built that hatred, such as claims that Jewish people control banking and the media, she argued.

'Am I anti-Semitic'

Ms Shah 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."

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone defended Ms Shah in the wake of the controversy.

He remains suspended from Labour after being accused of anti-Semitism himself and Ms Shah refused to comment on his actions.

Ms Shah said she thought Labour should have suspended her before David Cameron waded into the row at Prime Minister's Questions.

"Labour is not overrun by anti-Semitics, I think there are pockets where there are ignorance but I think that is in any party.

"I think that ignorance will only shift if we start having the conversations."

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