Diane Abbott, a 69-year-old Member of Parliament for the Labour Party in the United Kingdom and former shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, has been suspended after claiming that Jews are not subjected to racism in a letter published in The Observer.
Abbott has issued a statement following the backlash her letter resulted in, in which she claimed that the letter was an early draft that she had not meant to send and said that she distances herself from the comments.
My statement pic.twitter.com/Wu2h4nNOvN— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) April 23, 2023
Diane Abbott's letter
In Abbott's letter, she claims that Jews, Irish people and Traveller people "experience prejudice" which is "similar to racism, and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable."
Abbott goes on to write "It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism."
"In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus."
"In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships."
Responses to Abbot's comments
A Labour spokesperson said that the party “completely condemns these comments”, calling them “deeply offensive and wrong."
The spokesperson explained that Abbott will be allowed to sit as an independent MP during Labour's investigation into her comments.
Several MPs complained about Abbott's comments and the accompanying apology, according to Daily Star Journalist Adam Cailler.
NEW: I have been told that SEVERAL Labour MPs have spoken directly to Keir Starmer to express their anger about Diane Abbot's letter and "apology".The words "withdraw the whip" and "suspension" have been used.— Adam Cailler (@acailler) April 23, 2023
Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS) Spokesperson Fiona Sharpe issued a statement stating that Abbott's letter was unacceptable.
Sharpe added that the letter attempted to "reduce the racism faced by Jews to mere prejudice when in living memory 6 million Jews were systematically slaughtered in Europe for their race is grossly offensive."
Sharpe added "In the UK today, 1 in 5 of all Jews has suffered a racist attack..."
Ending the statement, Sharpe wrote "Ms. Abbott is either woefully misinformed or deliberately bigoted. Neither should be accepted."
Statement from @SharpeFiona, Spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, on todays letter in the Observer, by @HackneyAbbott. We call on @Keir_Starmer to remove the whip. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/12vN90mKHe— LAAS (@LabourAgainstAS) April 23, 2023
British politicians condemned her comments made in the letter. The energy secretary, Grant Shapps, who is Jewish, said on Twitter that "once again, Jewish people have to wake up and see a Labour MP casually spouting hateful anti-Semitism."
Corbyn himself was suspended and blocked from standing as a Labour candidate at the next general election expected next year after claiming antisemitism in the party during his leadership had been "dramatically overstated" for political reasons.
Britain's equalities watchdog said earlier this year the Labour Party had made sufficient changes over the last two years to tackle antisemitism.
Previous incidents of antisemitism by Abbott and the Labour Party
Abbott has come under fire in the past after appearing on the BBC television show Question Time, where she had described the traditional Jewish garb that observant Jews dress in as "costumes."
The Labour Party has also come under fire for antisemitism. The party was previously headed by Jeremy Corbyn who has been accused of permitting and producing antisemitism.
As the Jerusalem Post previously reported, Corbyn was barred from serving as a member of parliament as part of the Labour Party in January of 2022 following more and more allegations of antisemitism made against him, including by former UK chief rabbi, the late Jonathan Sacks, and former British prime minister David Cameron.
Corbyn has also expressed his support of a Labour Party meeting in which members claimed antisemitism against Jews was being privileged above other forms of racism, The Jewish Chronicle reported.
Additionally, as the Post reported, In May 2016, Cameron during question time in Parliament asked Corbyn four times to withdraw his friendly remarks about Hamas and Hezbollah. Cameron said, “Those organizations in their constitutions believe in persecuting and killing Jews, they are antisemitic organizations, they are racist organizations. He must stand up and say they are not his friends.” Corbyn avoided apologizing in a straightforward way for his pro-terrorist statements.
Manfred Gerstenfeld, Ilanit Chernick and Hannah Gal contributed to this report.