Britain’s opposition Labour Party on Sunday suspended member of Parliament Diane Abbott, pending an investigation, after she asserted in a public letter that Jews are not subjected to systemic racism.
Abbott wrote in a missive to the Observer newspaper that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people “undoubtedly experience prejudice,” but added, “This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable. 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.
“At the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships,” added Abbott, who is black.
In response, a Labour spokesperson said the party “completely condemns these comments, which are deeply offensive and wrong.”
Abbott on Sunday tweeted that she wished to “wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks,” blaming the incident on “an initial draft being sent.
“There is no excuse, and I wish to apologize for any anguish caused. Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others,” she said.
Abbott was shadow interior minister under the former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was widely accused of promoting and allowing antisemitism to infest Labour.
In 1996, Abbott said that “blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls” were unsuitable as nurses at her local hospital because they had “never met a black person before.”
On Jan. 4, 2012, Abbott tweeted: “White people love playing ‘divide and rule.’ We should not play their game.”
In March, current Labour leader Keir Starmer spearheaded a resolution banning Corbyn from running to represent the party, with its national executive committee voting 22-12 to ban him from being endorsed for a seat for 40 years.
Corbyn continues to refuse to acknowledge a Labour report on his antisemitism, resulting in his eventual suspension.
He has participated in a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated webinar, released a Rosh Hashanah video with a Hamas supporter; declared Hezbollah members “friends”; penned the foreword to a 2011 reissue of an antisemitic book; spoke at a 2009 conference likening Israel to Nazi Germany; and signed a 2002 document accusing Israel of apartheid and genocide.
In 2019, Hamas praised him.
An Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into antisemitism in Labour found in 2020 that the party was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.”
Starmer has apologized over the issue and confirmed that his predecessor will not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate in the next election.