Labour has suspended Andy McDonald over comments made at a Pro-Palestine rally.
McDonald, a Labour MP for Middlesbrough, used the phrase “between the river and the sea” in a speech during an anti-Israel/pro-Palestine demonstration at the weekend – however it appears that his words may have been misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Labour has described the comments as “deeply offensive” and confirmed that McDonald has been suspended pending an investigation.
“The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising antisemitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety,” a Labour spokesperson said.
“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.”
In a statement released on Twitter, McDonald said he would co-operate fully with the investigation.
He wrote: “I am saddened to have received the news from the opposition chief whip that I have been placed under ‘precautionary suspension’ for a period of three months, which is reviewable pending an investigation by the Labour Party. I look forward to engaging and fully co-operating with the inquiry.
“Throughout the past two days, there have been a number of misrepresentations of my words in the media. These have furthered baseless and extremely harmful accusations against me, which I feel obliged to respond to now, in order to avoid any further errors in the press.
“In my speech on Saturday, I said the following: ‘Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.’ These words should not be construed in any other way than they were intended, namely as a heartfelt plea for an end to the killings in Israel, Gaza, and the occupied West Bank, and for all peoples in the region to live in freedom without the threat of violence.
“I will be happy to explain these views to the investigation when it convenes, and trust that the whip will be restored. In the meantime, for the sake of humanity, I hope and pray that we see an end to the war in Gaza, and steps are taken towards a lasting peace.”
Some pro-Palestinian protesters have chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” during recent demonstrations in London.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously branded the slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel. However, this definition is strongly contested by pro-Palestinian protesters.
In a video shared by Mr McDonald on X, formerly known as Twitter, of his speech at the rally, he said: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty.”
He went on to chant “free Palestine”, alongside the crowd.
Mr McDonald has served as the MP for Middlesbrough since 2012 and has previously held Shadow Cabinet posts in Transport and Employment.
He will sit as an Independent MP while the investigation takes place.