A left-wing U.K. lawmaker has been suspended after arguing in a public letter that Jewish people cannot be the victims of “racism.”
Diane Abbott, was suspended as a Labour Party whip on Sunday after widespread backlash. She released a statement on Twitter apologizing for her remarks on Sunday and expressing her wish to “disassociate myself from them.”
The U.K.’s progressive Labour Party has long faced accusations of antisemitism, and its leaders were quick to condemn Abbott’s words and remove her from party leadership this weekend.
Abbott sent a letter to The Guardian responding to an article that had questioned whether only people of color can experience racism. Her response argued that while Jewish and certain White people may experience “prejudice,” they do not experience “racism.”
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“They undoubtedly experience prejudice,” she wrote of Jews and White people. “This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.”
“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships,” her letter finished.
Abbott released a statement Sunday following swift backlash, saying she would like to apologize for “the remarks and any distress caused as a result of them.”
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“I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself with them,” Abbott wrote, going on to blame the issue on an early draft of the letter being published. “But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologize for any anguish I caused.”
“Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travelers and many others,” she wrote.
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Abbott’s suspension will last until an investigation into the matter has been concluded, a Labour Party spokesman told the BBC.