On 4/3, PA pres. Abbas called on the UK govt. to offer incoming Palestinian rep. Maen Areikat the same diplomatic status as his predecessor, Manuel Hassassian. “We asked the British govt. to deal with the new representative in the same way it dealt with the outgoing one,” he said. “They should not change that, lest it be understood as a malicious act.” Since 2011, the Palestinian office in London has been an official diplomatic mission. The British govt. did not respond to Abbas’s request.
In the lead-up to local elections across the UK on 5/5, the Labour Party came under renewed accusations of anti-Semitism after the schism within Labour between the old guard and the new progressive wing over new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s break with the party’s traditional pro-Israel positions and rhetoric. Although hints of controversy surfaced amid Corbyn’s rise to party leadership in 9/2015 (see JPS 45 ), it dominated the UK press in 2/2016 after former Labour leader Ed Miliband indefinitely postponed his planned address to the Oxford University Labour Club in protest at the club’s decision to support Israeli Apartheid Week (2/22–28). Labour Club cochair Alex Chalmers resigned, claiming that many of the club’s mbrs. had “some kind of problem with Jews” (Guardian, 2/17). As Labour’s national students’ group launched an inquiry into the alleged anti-Semitism, previous incidents came under reexamination. Gerry Downing’s 8/22/ 2015 tweet about the “Jewish question” and Vicky Kirby’s summer 2014 social media posts suggesting Hitler might be a “Zionist god” appeared to some critics as part of a trend rather than random incidents.
The controversy escalated in 4/2016. Labour suspended MP Naz Shah (4/27) after a conservative blogger dug up Facebook posts she made in 2014 suggesting that Israelis move en masse to the U.S. The party also suspended former London mayor Ken Livingstone (4/28) after he made comments, defending Shah; in an interview that day, Livingstone alleged that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews” and suggested that the Israel lobby had a “wellorchestrated campaign”to “smear anybody who criticizes Israeli policy as anti-Semitic.” Amid intensifying complaints from Labour Party elders, Corbyn announced (4/29) an independent review of alleged anti-Semitism within the party, but the issue was far from settled at quarter’s end.