Exclusive: Labour suspend councillor who tweeted about ‘witchhunt’ of Israel critics

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Exclusive: Labour suspend councillor who tweeted about ‘witchhunt’ of Israel critics

Dudley councillor Zafar Islam posted on social media about 'the lobby' and appeared to question the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine dosage interval

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Councillor Zafar Islam,
Councillor Zafar Islam,

Labour have suspended a local councillor in Dudley, the West Midlands, who posted claims a “witch-hunt” was taking place by “the lobby” against colleagues who criticised Israel – and who also questioned Covid vaccine doses.

Zafar Islam, who was first elected in 2004 and represents the Brierley Hill ward, was suspended this week following an investigation into several inflammatory comments.

It leaves the local Labour Party having to search quickly for a new candidate, with the deadline to confirm those standing in the May local elections only two weeks away.

Tweets posted by Islam between 2018 and 2020, suggested he had defended those claiming antisemitism allegations in Labour were a smear.

In February 2019 he wrote: “Witch hunt continues. What next? Thou shall not support Palestine?”

When some activists were criticised for sparking a campaign stating “Israel is a racist endeavour,” Islam tweeted of their critics: “Next phase of expansion by the lobby.”

Ruth Jacobs, chair of Jewish Representative Council of Birmingham & West Midlands, previously told Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “While councillors are entitled to their own opinions on political situations – and we don’t want to infringe on anyone’s right to free speech – it is distressing to see this criticism of people tarred by conspiracy theories.

“Dudley has hardly any Jewish people. There’s not exactly a powerhouse of Jewish people there. To say “the Lobby” exists, when there are only between 250,000 to 275,000 Jewish people in our country is concerning.

“I feel this councillor is burning bridges. We should be building bridges between our community and the rest of the West Midlands.

“Those relationships are just as important as us building bridges between our community and the Middle East.”

In January Islam sparked a further outcry when questioning the intervals between Covid vaccine doses writing: “Worrying that only a few brave scientists or doctors but more particularly their professional associations or organisations have pointed out to the government the potential dangers and risks of altering dose regimes which have the regulatory approved protocols.”

Councillor Judy Foster, (Lab,  Brockmoor and Pensnett) and deputy leader of Dudley Labour group was asked last month about Islam and confirmed to LDRS: “As there is now an ongoing and live investigation it would not be proper to comment on the issue.”

Sources confirmed to Jewish News this week that Islam had now been suspended by the party.

It is understood that Islam has received a six month suspension of party membership as a punitive sanction following the conclusion of an internal Labour Party disciplinary investigation.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.”

We have approached Islam for comment.

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