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UK: Labour drops 'pro-Palestine' candidate Faiza Shaheen, sparking backlash

Social media users accused the party of 'purging' left-wing candidates and critics of Israel
Faiza Shaheen speaks to BBC's Newsnight one hour after learning the Labour Party had blocked her candidacy [Screengrab/X]

Social media users have accused the UK's Labour Party of purging candidates who are critical of Israel, after Faiza Shaheen was deselected for liking several social media posts, including ones which touched upon Israel and Palestine.

Shaheen, who was due to stand for Labour in the London seat of Chingford and Woodford Green, revealed on Wednesday that she was in a state of shock after receiving an email saying her candidacy had been blocked. 

Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight programme, she said that she received an email  informing her that she was be barred from running for the party just an hour before the show because her running would “frustrate Labour’s purpose”.

"I'm out campaigning and my phone's blowing up, they’ve briefed the press. They briefed the press before they even had the decency to call me and talk to me," she said.

She went on to say that the tweets in question were from about a decade ago - some about the Green Party and one about her "experiences of Islamophobia within the party".

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"How am I not allowed to talk about my experiences of Islamophobia and the double standards I've seen - and that we see with Diane Abbott?" Shaheen continued, referring to an ongoing row about whether another Labour MP would be allowed to run for her own seat in London.

Hundreds of people took to social media to defend Shaheen, who has been vocal in her support of a ceasefire amid Israel's ongoing war on the Gaza Strip, arguing that the party was intentionally expelling candidates who are left-wing and pro-Palestinian.

"Faiza Shaheen is the perfect candidate and to deliberately purge her because she has opinions and views that are her own and not the parroting of a provided Centrist script from the Labour Leader is a threat to free speech and freedom of conscience?!" one user shared on X, formerly Twitter.

"Yeah, its a bit hard to be a pro-Palestinian activist in a party led by an anti-Palestinian racist," commented another. 

One of the posts in question accused "professional organisations" of harassing critics of Israel alongside a clip from a 2014 skit by American comedian Jon Stewart that lampooned freedom of expression regarding Israel's policies.

Stewart later called out Labour on X, saying the move to suspend Shaheen was “the dumbest thing The UK has done since electing Boris Johnson".

Many social media users agreed.

"The irony, of course, is that Starmer's treatment of Shaheen pretty much proves Stewart’s point. Criticise Israel in any way and you will be punished by the British State," shared one user. 

"Blocking Faiza Shaheen from standing for the crime of liking tweets questioning the ethics and presence of zionist lobbyists in British politics, then immediately announcing an actual self-proclaimed Israel lobbyist as North Durham candidate… this has to be parody??" said another. 

Speaking on Newsnight, Shaheen acknowledged that liking the tweet - which at the time prompted complaints to the Jewish Labour Movement - was problematic.

"I don't remember liking this tweet," she said. "I know what's wrong with it, of course. The line that's there, about they're in 'professional organisations', that plays into a trope and I absolutely don't agree with that and I’m sorry about that."

'Institutional racism'

Social media users have also interpreted Shaheen's suspension as part of a pattern of institutional racism in the Labour Party and double standards faced by minorities.

"Diane Abbott wrote about the lived experience of visible minorities in this country and has been in a humiliating disciplinary limbo for 5 months," shared one user. "Faiza Shaheen tweeted about her experience of Islamophobia within the party and got deselected…"

"If an action in an organisation disproportionately affects people of colour whatever the intent then that’s institutional racism, and that’s what this Labour party left wing purge is," posted another.

"Starmer is purging left-wing Black and brown women. One of the examples cited for Faiza Shaheen: talking about her experiences of Islamophobia within Labour, as a Muslim woman," shared Momentum, a UK-based grassroots organisation. "This is institutional racism."

Shaheen continued in her interview on Newsnight: "On top of Gaza, on top of Diane Abbott, and now this to me, when there is such clear double standards of how other people have been treated.

"What message are you sending my community, what message are you sending the Black community?" she questioned.

MEE reached out to the Labour Party for comment but did not receive a response by time of publication.

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