Diane Abbott accused of ‘hateful antisemitism’ after suggesting Jews do not face racism


Labour MP Diane Abbott has apologised for remarks in which she suggested Jewish people do not face racism but instead face prejudice similar to “redheads”.

In a letter to the Observer in response to an article which had the headline “Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated,” Ms Abbott said she was responding to writer Tomiwa Owolade’s claims that “Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from ‘racism'”.

“They undoubtedly experience prejudice,” Ms Abbott wrote.

“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.”

She added: “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.”

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Shortly after the letter was published, Ms Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, issued a statement in which she said she wished to “wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself from them”.t

“The errors arose in an initial draft being sent,” she wrote. “But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused.”

The Labour Party has faced calls to withdraw the whip from Ms Abbott over her remarks.

Energy Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter: “Once again, Jewish people have to wake up and see a Labour MP casually spouting hateful anti-semitism.

“@Keir_Starmer are you actually going to do anything?”

Former home secretary Sajid Javid said he was “appalled by this minimisation of racism against Jews and other groups who may not have a certain skin pigmentation”,

“Redefining racism in obscure ways damages the cause of tackling it – whether that’s majority vs minority, minority vs minority, or other ‘points of difference’.”

Comedian David Baddiel tweeted: “And in the middle of the 20th Century 6 million Jews were murdered after being categorised as an inferior race. Not sure that’s prejudice.”

The Labour Campaign Against Antisemitism said her comments were “simply unacceptable” and called on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to remove the whip.

The group pointed to statistics which show that one in five Jews in the UK have suffered a racist attacks, with more than one in three in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community reporting the same.

“Ms Abbott is either woefully misinformed or deliberately bigoted. Neither should be tolerated.”