Political opportunists used British politician Naz Shah’s reposting of a graphic by U.S. political science professor Norman Finkelstein as a fulcrum in a struggle for dominance of the British Labour Party. (Norman G. Finkelstein)

There was no political uproar in the United States when Norman Finkelstein, a political scientist, posted a graphic on his blog proposing the relocation of Israel into the United States as a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. At the time, in early August 2014, Israel was mounting its third major attack on the Gaza Strip since 2008. American political figures across the spectrum from Hillary Clinton to Lindsey Graham defended Israel’s deployment of massive firepower far beyond any legitimate defensive measures. They, like many in the “pro-Israel” camp, denounced the widespread international criticism of Israel as motivated by anti-Semitism. Shouldn’t this peculiar U.S.-Israeli understanding of a massive assault that killed nearly 1,500 civilians, including 500 children, have merited some critical comment, perhaps even a political cartoon? In an interview with Open Democracy, Finkelstein, who regards the image as “funny” and a “joke,” remarked, “As crazy as the discourse on Israel is in America, at least we still have a sense of humour. It’s inconceivable that any politician in the U.S. would be crucified for posting such a map.” I’m not so sure. But it did seem inconceivable that a Briton, Naz Shah, would be trashed for reposting the image on her Facebook page the next day. Shah’s Facebook page became a political football after she was elected to Parliament by the constituency of Bradford West in May 2015. She was then a rising star in the Labour Party and a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, who became Labour leader in September 2015. Corbyn has been a Palestine solidarity activist for decades and is a patron of the United Kingdom’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Labour Friends of Israel and the center and right factions in the party have responded by launching a witch hunt accusing Corbyn and his supporters of anti-Semitism. This April, for no particular reason and out of any context except perhaps the British municipal elections that were scheduled for May 5, Paul Delaire Staines, a British libertarian who blogs as Guido Fawkes, “revealed” Shah’s 2014 post. He charged that it meant she favored “transportation” of Israel’s Jews to the United States — terminology that recalls the Nazi-era transportation of Jews to Auschwitz and other death camps. John Mann, a Labour member of Parliament and Corbyn opponent who has been playing the anti-Semitism card for years, went even further. In an exclusive interview with Guido Fawkes, Mann compared Naz Shah to Adolf Eichmann, who directed the Nazi deportation of Jews to the death camps. Finkelstein, whose parents are Holocaust survivors and who lost much of his family to the Nazi genocide, termed Mann’s comparison “obscene.” The same day, Fawkes outed another Facebook post by Shah. She wrote “#ApartheidIsrael” above a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holding a placard that read: “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal.’ ” Fawkes concluded that Shah was comparing Israel to Hitler. In fact, it was King who was comparing Jim Crow to Nazi Germany. Shah might have meant that Israel’s discriminatory measures against Palestinian Arabs, including citizens and those in the occupied territories, are enshrined in law. But perhaps Fawkes would have found that equally objectionable. Shah was quick to apologize, while placing her comments in their political context:
The manner and tone of what I wrote in haste is not excusable. … The language I used was wrong. It is hurtful. What’s important is the impact these posts have had on other people. I understand that referring to Israel and Hitler as I did is deeply offensive to Jewish people for which I apologize. When the ‘Gaza-Israel’ conflict happened I played an active role in highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people, attended demonstrations to stop the bombing and called for equality in media reporting of the issues. Feelings were running high across the world and Bradford was no different. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I’m shocked myself at the language I used in some instances during the Gaza-Israel conflict. For this I apologize.
Nonetheless, under heavy pressure, Jeremy Corbyn administratively suspended Shah’s membership in the Labour Party, pending investigation.” Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London and veteran of the Labour left, jumped to Shah’s defense, saying she is “not anti-Semitic” and claiming that “Hitler was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.” For this Mann denounced Livingstone as a “Nazi apologist.” Livingstone’s membership in the Labour Party also was suspended.

You know the story. Independent journalism is under threat and overshadowed by heavily funded mainstream media. During this holiday season, you can help level the playing field. Become a member.

Your tax-deductible contribution keeps us digging beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that unearth what's really happening- without compromise. Give today to support our courageous, independent journalists.

As always, we wish you truth, reason and the best of the season!