Everything You Need To Know About The Anti-Semitism Fight Engulfing British Politics

It began with a Facebook post invoking Hitler and has somehow only gotten worse and weirder.

The United Kingdom is basically the birthplace of parliamentary democracy, so it's no wonder that they keep finding new and exciting ways to show the world just how weird and banal a system it can be.

Matt Dunham / AP

This particular tale begins on Tuesday, when a political blog called Guido Fawkes unearthed old Facebook posts from Member of Parliament (MP) Naz Shah of the left-of-center Labour Party.

Pa / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Shah gained national prominence during the last election when she managed to defeat Respect Party firebrand George Galloway and take his seat in Parliament. Since then, she's made a name for herself highlighting issues important to British Muslims, including whether groups getting government counterterrorism funding should be investigated.

The two posts — made before Shah was elected to Parliament — were both about Israel and posted during Israel's most recent war against Hamas in Gaza.

Guido Fawkes
Guido Fawkes

In the first, she suggests Israel be relocated to the United States; in the second, she invokes Nazi Germany while calling Israel an apartheid state. "Never forget everything Hitler did in Germany was legal," reads the second post, made in September 2014.

Guido Fawkes' revelation prompted Shah to resign as an aide to the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell*, which is a huge blow for a new legislator like Shah.

Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images

*For those unfamiliar, in Britain the opposition gets to appoint its own "shadow cabinet" when they aren't in power. Shadow Chancellor is basically like if the Republican Party got to appoint a person who got to follow Treasury Secretary Jack Lew around and tell everyone what they'd do instead.

By Wednesday Shah had issued an statement where she said she realized now that “referring to Israel and Hitler as I did is deeply offensive to Jewish people for which I apologise.”

Paramount Pictures

“If politicians put their hands up when they get something wrong it would help to restore faith in politics," she continued. "I hope that by writing to those who I have hurt, I am practicing as I preach and calling myself out. For those that I have caused hurt to, particularly the Jewish community, my constituents, friends and family, I sincerely hope my intentions and actions from here on in will win back your trust and faith in me.”

In some, or even many, circumstances that would be the end of it. Instead, that's when things got...weird.

NBCUniversal/Warner Bros.

Enter Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose connection with a Holocaust denier and stance on talks with Hamas and Hezbollah — both of which the U.K. has deemed terrorist groups — has fielded accusations he associates with anti-Semites.

Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images

Corbyn said in a statement on Wednesday that since Shah had apologized and the comments were made before she was elected, there'd be no punishment. “She does not hold these views and accepts she was completely wrong to have made these posts,” his statement read. “The Labour Party is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.”

Well...except it turns out the shadow energy secretary, Lisa Nandy, was live on the BBC when Corbyn's statement was issued and nobody gave her the memo about Shah not being suspended.

20th Century Fox

“We have a policy in the Labour Party that people who make anti-Semitic remarks are suspended and an investigation carried out,” Nandy said. “Now I don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the conversation Jeremy is about to have with her, but I have made clear to the leader’s office my view that the policy should be followed without exception.”

The unforced error was a gift for the ruling Conservative Party, which immediately pounced. During Prime Minister's Questions*, Prime Minister David Cameron called it “extraordinary” that Shah hadn't been suspended.


A spokesperson for his office likewise said if Labour “had a shred of decency” Shah would be suspended.

*Picture if Congress got to ask President Obama questions every week and he yelled at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and they yelled back and it was a huge dramafast each time.

Corbyn's spokesperson then issued this...interesting statement on Shah, saying that she "made remarks that she doesn't agree with."

Corbyn spokesman on Shah: "We're not suggesting she's anti-Semitic. We're saying she's made remarks that she doesn't agree with."

Shah was eventually suspended on Wednesday, so that's that, you'd think. You'd be very, very wrong.

Naz Shah has now been suspended, by mutual agreement with Corbyn.

Because, dear reader, that's when former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone decided to insert himself into the fray without asking, like that friend of yours who just has to get involved in your drama but makes everything way worse.

Rob Stothard / Getty Images

Livingstone has always had a bit of a rocky relationship with the Labour Party, thanks to his unabashed left-wing stances.

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

When he first ran for mayor in 2000, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair blocked him from running under the Labour banner, but Livingstone won anyway as an independent. He won re-election in 2004 as a member of the Labour Party before being defeated in 2008. He'd semi-retired from politics before the rise of his ally Jeremy Corbyn last year.

It started when Livingstone told BBC Radio London that Shah's post about moving Israel to the United States was “completely over the top but it’s not anti-Semitic.”

Bravo / NBCUniversal

“Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932 – his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel,” Livingstone said. “He was supporting Zionism. This before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”

That went over about as poorly as expected. Labour MP John Mann sought out Livingstone and berated him, calling him a "Nazi apologist" and a "disgusting racist.”

Clash between John Mann and Ken Livingstone

Mann chased Livingstone — who by the way sits on the Labour National Executive Committee, which is like the DNC or RNC in the U.S. — all the way into a TV studio, telling him to “go back and check what Hitler did! Go back and check what Hitler did!”

Watch this. Extraordinary. John Mann MP: You're a disgusting Nazi apologist, Livingstone'.

Oh, and did we mention that this whole time Livingstone was ON THE PHONE with British radio station LBC trying to explain his last radio interview.

By this point, literally dozens of MPs had already called on Livingstone to be suspended. BUT JUST WAIT IT GETS WEIRDER.

20th Century Fox

Because once Livingstone was in the studio, he doubled the hell down. “Hitler’s policy when he first came to power [was] to move Germany’s Jews to Israel,” he told the BBC’s Daily Politics.

Rob Stothard / Getty Images

He also insisted that Shah's comments were "rude" but not anti-Semitic.

To make Livingstone's day even worse, the BBC had managed to get MP Mann to confront him from another studio.

In a scene from his worst nightmares, Ken is now being confronted by a giant John Mann

As soon as Livingstone left the interview, he found himself swarmed by a ravenous pack of journalists, so he did what any sane person would do: he hid in a wheelchair-friendly restroom.

Ken Livingstone escaping questions over whether he agrees with Hitler by running into a disabled toilet, there.

By Thursday afternoon, Livingstone was suspended because of "grave concerns" over the language he used. “Anybody that thinks this is party is not cracking down on anti-Semitism is simply wrong,” Corbyn told the BBC.

Watch: Jeremy Corbyn says Ken Livingstone suspended because of "grave concerns about the language" used this morning https://t.co/FX7VuCIsHa

Mann didn't get off scot-free though: The Labour Party's chief whip called him into his office like he was a kid sent to the principal's office and told it was “completely inappropriate for MPs to be involved in public rows on television.”

But since it's British politics there's no telling how many more off-the-rails things will happen in the next 24 hours.