Official portrait of Ruth George (Chris McAndrew/Wikimedia Commons).
(photo credit: CHRIS MCANDREW/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
UK Labour MP Ruth George suggested on Tuesday that the group of seven Labour MPs who defected from the party on Monday over its failure to curb antisemitism in its ranks could be receiving financial support from Israel.
George made her comments on in a thread on her Facebook page but quickly apologized when her remarks began to stir outrage on social media and the local press.
The MP was asked about a Facebook post by a Labour councilor in a local authority, Nick Lon-gos, who highlighted the fact that the seven Labour MPs who broke away from the Labour party on Monday had registered their group as a private company and not yet as a political par-ty, meaning they do not have to disclose information about their finances.
A commenter on Longos’ post wrote simply that the seven MPs were “Israelis,” a comment which Longos “loved” on Facebook.
Asked if Longos’ behavior was appropriate, George said that “The comment appears not to refer to the independent MPs but to their financial backers,” and added that “I would not con-demn those that suggest” Israel is supporting the breakaway MPs.
She noted that the Israeli Embassy in London has worked with the Labour Friends of Israel lob-bying group, of which MP Luciana Berger – one of the seven breakaway MPs – is a supporter, and Conservative Friends of Israel.
“It’s important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy,” she added.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, a communal umbrella organization, expressed concern on Twitter with what appeared to be George’s conspiracy theory that the State of Israel was behind the high profile defection of the seven Labour MPs.
“What on earth does Ruth George MP think she is saying? That the departure of seven previ-ously Labour MPs could be funded by Israel?” The organization tweeted.
“Jews are rightly concerned when elected representatives start indulging conspiracy theories and tropes.”
Shortly after the Board of Deputies tweet, George’s comment was deleted from the thread and an apology posted on her Facebook page.
“On my earlier response to a Facebook comment, I unreservedly and wholeheartedly apolo-gize for my comment,” said George. “I had no intention of invoking a conspiracy theory and I am deeply sorry that my ill-thought out and poorly worded comment did this. I withdraw it completely.”
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