Lord Nazir Ahmed, a Labour life peer, has been suspended by his party after he allegedly made anti-Semitic comments during a television broadcast last year in his native Pakistan, the Times of London reported.
Specifically, Ahmed blamed his imprisonment for dangerous driving on Jewish-owned media in the UK.
In 2008, the peer was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for sending text messages while driving his car just before it was involved in a fatal crash during Christmas 2007 in the north of England.
In court, Ahmed pleaded guilty to the charge of dangerous driving but was spared having to contend with the much more serious offense of “causing death by dangerous driving.” However, his case was then transferred from Sheffield Magistrates Court to Sheffield Crown Court, reportedly because the district judge thought his sentencing powers were not sufficient for the gravity of the case.
The Times reported that Ahmed – during an Urdu-language broadcast in Pakistan last April -- insinuated that powerful Jews in British media pressured the court to hand him a prison sentence due to his outspoken support of the Palestinian cause.
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(Ahmed was freed from prison after serving only 16 days after the Court of Appeals stepped in and cited his “exceptional” work in the community.)
"My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this," Ahmed allegedly said in the Pakistani television interview.
Ahmed, 55, also said the judge who sentenced him was appointed to the High Court as a reward for helping a “Jewish colleague” of former Prime Minister Tony Blair during an “important case.”
But Ahmed himself told the Times that he has no recollection of the Pakistani TV interview.
“I’ve done a lot of interviews,” he said. “If you’re saying that you have seen this footage, then it may be so, but I need to see the footage and I need to consult with my solicitors before I make any comments in relation to this.”
Meanwhile, the Labour Party, whose leader is Ed Milliband, a Jewish MP, said in a statement that it "deplores and does not tolerate any sort of racism or anti-Semitism. We will be seeking to clarify these remarks as soon as possible.”
Miliband himself said: "There's no place for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and frankly anybody who makes those kinds of comments cannot be either a Labour lord or a Labour member of Parliament."”
Jewish groups in Britain have also condemned Ahmed.
“We are appalled by Lord Ahmed's alleged comments which recall the worst Jewish conspiracy theories” said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in a statement.
“However outlandish and incredible his allegations, there will always be gullible or malicious individuals or groups that will accept what he has said and add to the growth of anti-Semitic discourse. We note that Lord Ahmed has now been suspended from the Labour Party pending a full investigation. If he is found to have indeed made the reported comments, he should be expelled from the Labour Party; as such views should have no space in responsible political discourse."
The Times noted that had Ahmed made such public remarks in Britain, he could have been prosecuted for a hate crime.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, who is also Jewish, said: “These are serious allegations. I’m glad the Labour Party are doing an investigation to see if they are true or not. This kind of language, if he used it, is not to be tolerated.”
Victoria Honeyman, a lecturer in British politics at the University of Leeds, noted that this is the second time this year that a mainstream British political figure has been accused of making anti-Semitic statements – the first was the Liberal Democrat MP David Ward who equated Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with the Nazi Holocaust.
“Anti-Semitic remarks are not often seen in mainstream British politics,” she said.
“The two cases -- Ahmed and Ward -- have been fairly newsworthy stories, suggesting their rarity.”
Ahmed is a historic figure in British political history since he was the first Muslim peer (he was appointed to the House of Lords by Blair in 1998 as Baron Ahmed of Rotherham). But he has also long courted controversy.
Just last year, the Labour Party suspended him after he allegedly called for a £10 million ($16 million) “bounty” for the capture of Barack Obama and George W. Bush for “war crimes.” The claim was reported in a Pakistani newspaper – and Ahmed denied ever making such threats.
The party eventually cleared Ahmed and reinstated him after an investigation exonerated him.
In 2007, he criticized the granting of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie, saying the controversial author had “blood on his hands.”