25th Oct, 2020

Coventry Labour candidate Zarah Sultana apologises for 'celebrate death of Tony Blair' tweet

John Carlon 5th Nov, 2019 Updated: 6th Nov, 2019

LABOUR’S newly selected general election candidate for Coventry South has apologised for a social media post where she said she would celebrate the death of ex-Labour prime minister Tony Blair.

It has emerged Zarah Sultana, aged 26, who was selected to replace veteran MP Jim Cunningham last week, made the controversial remark in 2015 in response to a post claiming nobody’s death should be celebrated.

She tweeted: “Try and stop me when the likes of Blair, Netanyahu and Bush die.”

Ms Sultana said sorry on Twitter after the Jewish Chronicle newspaper found the now deleted Twitter posts.

The newspaper also reported her support for “violent resistance” by Palestinians fighting the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The former Birmingham University student, Unite the union member and parliamentary officer for Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) tweeted: “I posted these tweets five years ago when I was a student, from an account I then deleted.

“I wrote them out of frustration rather than malice, in response to the endless cycles of global suffering, violence and needless killing resulting from decisions by political leaders.

“In particular, the Iraq War and the killing of over 2000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians, which was condemned by the United Nations.

“I do not support violence and I should not have articulated my anger in the manner I did, for which I apologise.

“Criticism of Israel is not, of course, antisemitic in and of itself.

“And I believe that the conflation between the actions and policies of the Israeli government with the beliefs and actions of Jewish people can itself be a form of anti-Semitism.

“I support Labour’s policy of pursuing a two-state solution, with the full rights of Israelis and Palestinians respected as enshrined under international law.

“However, in the past I was sometimes careless in the way I expressed my distress at the situation in Palestine, seeing Zionism simply as a political ideology.

“I have since learnt more about Zionism’s different meaning to different people and I would engage in such discussions very differently today.

“While for many Palestinians , Zionism is seen as the ideology of the Israeli government, representing illegal settlements and second-class citizenship for Palestinians, for many Jewish people, Zionism represents Jewish people’s right to a nation state, and their right to safety after the Holocaust and the centuries of oppression and persecution preceding it.

“I have learnt how important it is to be mindful and sensitive of the different perspectives.

“I wholeheartedly condemn antisemitism – whether it is propagated by the far-right or tolerated and unchallenged by some on the left.

“As an anti-racist campaigner and a Muslim, I’m committed to fighting racism in all its forms and I know that these forms are interconnected and must be fought collectively.

“For me, the liberation of my Jewish comrades from the scourge of antisemitism is indivisible from my own liberation.

“I have marched against the antisemitic far-right all my life and if elected as the Labour MP for Coventry South, I will do all I can to support my Jewish constituents and to stand with them in fighting the prejudice and oppression they face.”

Ms Sultana is considered to be on the left of the party. She studied International Relations at the University of Birmingham, sat on the national executive of Young Labour, and on the national executive council of the National Union of Students. She was a committee member of an NUS Black Students Campaign.

MEND has faced accusations over hosting allegedly ‘extremist’ and ‘Islamist’ speakers, denied by supporters.

The Jewish Chronicle in May wrote a critical piece concerning Ms Sultana’s position at MEND and her views on the Palestinians and Israel.

The Jewish Chronicle is also this week reporting on Facebook posts by Ms Sultana from her student days, in which she appeared to object to an application for an ethnic minorities student officer based on the candidate’s colour of her skin, calling her a ‘YT’ (slang for whitey).

Ms Sultana stood as a West Midlands Labour MEP candidate in this year’s European elections, when she was the fifth preference on a slate of eight West Midlands candidates.

Her selection material was pro-immigration and workers’ rights and says little about Brexit, for which 55 per cent of people in Coventry voted in the 2016 referendum.

Voters go to the polls on December 12 when Ms Sultana will face Mattie Heaven (Conservative), Stephen Richmond (Liberal Democrat) and Becky Finlayson (Green) in Coventry South. Other candidates have yet to be announced.

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