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Labour Party kicks out British election candidate over 10-year-old tweets about Israel and Islamophobia

LONDON: The Labour Party leadership has barred a candidate from running in the upcoming British general election because he has been involved in the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) for the past decade.

In one case, economist and academic Faiza Shaheen “liked” a video of a TV sketch about Israel by celebrated American comedian Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program The Daily Show. In another case, she wrote about her own experiences with Islamophobia within the Labour Party.

Shaheen said she was informed on Wednesday evening that she could not stand for the party in the election after being called to a meeting to discuss allegations of anti-Semitism and other misconduct. She told BBC Newsnight on Wednesday of her shock when she received the email confirming her candidacy had been blocked.

“Fourteen tweets since 2014 – so ten years,” she said. “Three of them were about the Green Party, about me liking my friends’ tweets before I joined the Labour Party, and one was about my experiences of Islamophobia in the party.”

“How can it be that I am not allowed to talk about my experiences with Islamophobia and the double standards that I have experienced?”

Shaheen, a scholar who specializes in the study of inequality, was presented with a list of tweets earlier in the day, including a clip from The Daily Show in July 2014. In it, host Stewart, who is of Jewish descent, begins discussing an Israeli ground offensive during the 2014 Gaza war. He is immediately surrounded and rebuked by four correspondents from the Comedy Central show, who accuse him of being a “self-hating Jew” for questioning Israel’s actions, as part of the show’s satirical commentary on the issue.

Shaheen’s interaction with the video on social media sparked a complaint from the Jewish Labour Movement, which is affiliated with the Labour Party.

“If you look at the time, it was the middle of the night. I was probably with the baby, breastfeeding it. I don’t even remember liking that tweet,” she said during her appearance on Newsnight.

She later accused the Labour Party of conducting “a systematic campaign of racism, Islamophobia and bullying” and claimed that the party led by Keir Starmer had “a problem with black and brown people”.

She added that she would challenge the party’s decision in court. “This campaign of prejudice, bullying and vitriolic behaviour was finally rewarded by the Labour Party’s NEC (National Executive Committee) and my name was added to the list of those not welcome in the candidates’ club. And it’s no surprise that many of those excluded are people of colour.”

Stewart responded to Labour’s actions against Shaheen with a message on Twitter in which he wrote: “This is the stupidest thing Britain has done since the election of Boris Johnson.”

The Labour leadership’s decision to exclude Shaheen from running in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency in north-east London comes in the midst of the party’s campaign for the July 4 general election, which many experts predict will end in a landslide victory for the party.

However, under Starmer, who took over the party leadership in 2020, the party has faced criticism on many fronts, including its stance on the war in Gaza and its handling of internal affairs.

In 2020, regulators ruled that the party was responsible for “unlawful” acts of anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination during the four-and-a-half years that Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, was party leader.

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