UK: Labour's Rochdale by-election candidate apologises for saying Israel allowed October 7 attack
The Labour candidate for the upcoming Rochdale by-election issued an apology on Sunday for suggesting that Israel had prior warning of the 7 October attack, implying that the incident was permitted to justify the war on Gaza.
Azhar Ali, who is also a Labour councillor, said his remarks were "deeply offensive, ignorant and false", vowing to apologise to Jewish leaders.
The Rochdale candidate’s original comments were made at a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party soon after Hamas's surprise assault on southern Israel last year.
"The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel ten 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," Ali said in a recording unearthed by the Mail on Sunday.
In a statement, Ali completely withdrew his comments and apologised.
"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," he wrote.
"October 7th 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."
It has been confirmed that Ali will remain Labour’s candidate for the by-election later this month.
The controversy surrounding Ali comes amid reports of a split in the Labour Party due to Starmer’s strongly pro-Israel views on Gaza, such as his refusal to back a ceasefire or recognise the ICJ’s ruling that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in the Palestine enclave.
Recent polls have shown a drastic fall in Muslim support for Labour across the UK, with 60 percent saying they would vote for Labour today.
This is down from 86 percent who voted for the party at the last election.
On Friday, Shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood, the party's most senior Muslim MP, told the BBC there had been "a loss of trust, and I think that that needs to be rebuilt".