Britain’s opposition Labour party suspended three councillors on Monday over comments about Israel posted on social media, as a row over anti-Semitism rocked the party.
The controversy, which hit just before key regional elections on Thursday, had already forced leader Jeremy Corbyn to announce an independent review into racism and suspend members including a former mayor of London pending investigations.
On Monday the party suspended three more members including Shah Hussain, a councillor in the northern town of Burnley, for a Tweet he wrote to Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun in 2014.
“You are a complete and utter plonker, you and your country doing the same thing that hitler did to ur race in ww2” Hussain wrote to the midfielder in a row over the conflict in Gaza.
Hussain said he would fight the suspension.
“I wanted him to reflect on what Hitler did to the Jewish people, and then I wanted him to reflect on that and to see what’s happening in Palestine, can it be seen as the same?” he said.
Two others, Nottingham City councillor Ilyas Aziz and councillor and former mayor of Blackburn, Salim Mulla, were also suspended after a right-wing blog shared old posts from their Facebook pages that suggested Israel should be relocated to the United States.
Aziz denied having written the post that read: “Perhaps it would have been wiser to create Israel in America it’s big enough. They could relocate even now.”.
A post from 2015 on Mulla’s Facebook page linked the actions of the Islamic State group with Zionism, while an earlier image he shared advocated relocating Israel to the United States.
Mulla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron last week accused the rival Labour party of having a “problem with anti-Semitism”.
But other commentators accused the Conservative party of exploiting the issue for political ends.
“The far left are not all paragons of virtue, but Labour is not “rife” with antisemitism,” wrote Michele Hanson in a column in the left-leading Guardian newspaper.
The controversy comes at a sensitive time for Corbyn ahead of regional elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, English local elections and a mayoral vote in London that are being seen as litmus tests for his leadership.