Labour candidate claimed Israel deliberately let Jews be slaughtered on 7 October

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Labour candidate claimed Israel deliberately let Jews be slaughtered on 7 October

Azhar Ali said: 'They deliberately took the security off, they allowed that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Azhar Ali made his comments at a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party. He later apologised
Azhar Ali made his comments at a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party. He later apologised

Labour’s by-election candidate in Rochdale has been recorded claiming Israel deliberately allowed the 7 October Hamas massacre to give it the “green light” to invade Gaza.

In a recording obtained by the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Azhar Ali said: “The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel 10 days earlier… Americans warned them a day before [that] there’s something happening… They deliberately took the security off, they allowed… that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.”

And after someone at the same meeting suggested Keir Starmer was “held in high regard”, Ali was heard replying: “Can I disagree with you… A lot of the MPs I’ve spoken to, non-Muslim MPs, feel that on this issue, he’s lost the confidence of the parliamentary party.”

Councillor Ali made his comments at a small meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party. The revelation brought calls for him to be withdrawn as Labour’s candidate at the by-election on February 29th.

But the deadline for nominations closed on February 2nd,  effectively making it too late for Labour to replace him.

The Board of Deputies responded to Ali’s remarks issuing a statement saying: “These comments are disgraceful and unforgivable.

“Were it not too late to do so, we would have called on Labour to replace Mr Ali as a candidate. It is clear to us that Mr Ali is not apologising out of a genuine sense of remorse.

“Despite what he says in his apology, we do not see how we could possibly engage with him at this time and we believe other leading Jewish communal groups will feel similarly.”

Raphi Bloom, co-chairman of the North West Friends Of Israel, said: “To accuse the Israeli government of wilfully allowing Jews to be slaughtered is a disgraceful and shocking thing to say.”

The Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester & Region said it had met Mr Ali and been reassured by his “long track record of interfaith work and combating extremism”, but had been “shocked and appalled” about his remarks on the Hamas attack.

It said: “His assertion that this was orchestrated by the Israeli government demonstrates warped thinking and is deeply troubling.

“This conspiratorial narrative is highly offensive, completely fictitious and at a time of record levels of antisemitism, has the potential to exacerbate the conflict playing out across Greater Manchester and beyond.”

Gary Mond, chairman of the National Jewish Assembly, added: “Some 1,200 innocent Israeli citizens were murdered, beheaded, burned alive and raped in the most barbaric way imaginable by terrorists from Hamas and affiliated groups.

“It is these actions the whole world needs to condemn, including Mr Ali… and not indulgence in speculation regarding the causes.

“As regards Sir Keir Starmer, in refusing to call for a cessation of the war, he demonstrates a recognition of Israel’s basic right to defend itself, and by implication Israel’s right to exist. This is laudable and is endorsed even by those who are not supporters of the Labour Party.”

Ali, who is defending a Labour majority of more than 9,000 in Rochdale on 29 February, issued an apology for the remarks after being contacted by the newspaper on Saturday.

He said: “I apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community for my comments which were deeply offensive, ignorant, and false. Hamas’s horrific terror attack was the responsibility of Hamas alone, and they are still holding hostages who must be released.

“October 7 was the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust, and Jews in the UK and across the world are living in fear of rising antisemitism. I will urgently apologise to Jewish leaders for my inexcusable comments.

“The Labour Party has changed unrecognisably under Keir Starmer’s leadership – he has my full support in delivering the change Britain needs.”

Shadow frontbencher Pat McFadden told Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips that Ali will still stand for Labour when the vote takes place on 29 February.

The party is battling to fight off a challenge by George Galloway, who has attempted to turn the vote, in a seat with a sizeable Muslim community, into a referendum on Starmer’s stance on Gaza.

Latest official data shows some 18.8 percent of people in Rochdale described themselves as Muslim. McFadden said of Ali’s remarks: “His comments were completely wrong. He should never have said something like that.

“He’s issued a complete apology and retraction and I hope he learns a good lesson from it because he should never have said something like that in the first place.”

Jewish News understands that Ali’s latest anti-Israel outburst has come as a shock to some of his long-time associates within the Jewish community who have known him over many years.

One communal figure said Ali had intervened on their behalf on previous occasions after they came under verbal attack from those holding hardline Islamist views.

But they also said his recorded comments on the 7 October massacre were absolutely indefensible.

Because of the timing of the latest revelations, Ali’s name would appear on the ballot paper even if Labour withdrew their support. It would also probably provide the notorious anti-Israel candidate Galloway with a clear path towards victory at the poll.

Former Labour MP Simon Danczuk is standing for Reform UK,  Iain Donaldson for the Liberal Democrats and Paul Ellison for the Conservatives, alongside several independents.

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