Labour activist Jackie Walker says she won't apologise in wake of anti-Semitism row
A Labour activist cleared of anti-Semitism after saying Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade" today insisted she would not apologise for her comments.
Jackie Walker said she was "saddened if I've upset people" and called on her critics to join her campaign against "fascists" on the south coast of the country.
Ms Walker, the vice-chair of South Thanet Labour party in Kent and a senior official in the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group Momentum, also said the Conservative party had a bigger problem with racism in its ranks.
She was suspended by Labour earlier this month after comments she made on Facebook came to light.
She had asked: "What debt do we owe the Jews?"
When a fellow user replied “the Holocaust", Ms Walker – who claims to be part-Jewish – said: "I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust? My ancestors were involved in both.
"Many more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn't for Jews.
"And many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade."
Labour announced on Saturday that following an inquiry, Ms Walker's suspension had been lifted.
That prompted a furious response from the Jewish Labour Movement, who said: "Walker repeated an anti-Semitic slur. She showed no contrition.
"The outcome of this process shows, once again, that the political rhetoric of zero tolerance on anti-Semitism is not matched by action. This is why we are proposing changes to party rules."
But Ms Walker was defiant in an interview on the BBC's Today programme this morning, saying: "I don't have an apology to make. I'm saddened if I've upset people, but sometimes when we're talking in political speech we upset people, and these issues are very upsetting.
"All I'm saying is that every single death of every single person no matter what their race, no matter what their culture, is an awful thing. No one genocide, no one holocaust, is in my opinion worse than any other. I'm an internationalist – that's what it means to be an internationalist."
She added: "The context of this is extremely important. This was in a private Facebook post. I was talking to two friends, one of whom is an Israeli Zionist, one of whom isn't. My friend who is the Israeli studied the holocausts – the African Holocaust and the Jewish Holocaust – with me. What we were talking about was whether or not there is an ethical argument against sanctioning Israel. So it's not the point of whether the Jewish Holocaust was not important - it was critically important to what's happened."
Ms Walker went on: "It was me and my comrades who were down in Dover resisting the fascists, the people who have called 'Hitler was right'. What I would love to see is a huge upswell of those people who have been so alarmed by what the Jewish Chronicle have reported. Let's see them down there in solidarity with us fighting those fascists.
"My experience of the Labour movement tells me that the Labour movement has much to be proud of in its anti-racist work. Just compare it to what's been happening in the Tory party and let's question why the racism of the Tory party that is so easily pointed to is not coming under inspection. You could question why Boris Johnson, who described black people as picaninnies with watermelon smiles, wasn't suspended, because I know if he had been in the Labour party he would have been."
Human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabarti is currently leading an inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the Labour party.
The probe was organised following a string of anti-Semitic incidents involving party members.
Ken Livingstone was suspended from the party after comments he made arguing Hitler was a Zionist “before he went mad and murdered six million Jews”.
The former Mayor of London was trying to defend Bradford West MP Naz Shah, who was suspended over a series of Facebook posts about Israel.