Newly elected Social Democrat MP Hussein al-Taee says he’s sorry for offensive comments he made on social media about minority groups.
Writing on his website today, al-Taee says he feels “shame” about comments which contain “prejudiced thoughts and language about homosexuals, Jews, Sunnis, Somalis or other groups of people”.
The lengthy blog post says that his earlier beliefs about minorities were influenced by a conservative upbringing, but his ideas have since evolved. He cites the women in his life who have been role models; learning about Iraq’s Jewish community; and meeting gay people, as catalysts for change in his own way of thinking.
Israeli media story about al-Taee
Controversy over al-Taee’s social media comments, first revealed in the run-up to April’s general election, spread to Israeli media over the weekend.
Leading Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post published a story on Sunday detailing al-Taee’s old social media posts which compare the State of Israel with terror group Isis. The paper also reviews posts where al-Taee made derogatory comments about Facebook’s Jewish founder Mark Zuckerberg; and interviews Finnish-Kurdish activist Anter Yasa who accuses al-Taee of being a pro-Iranian advocate.
In recent weeks Anter Yasa has repeatedly sent blog links and direct messages to media outlets, including News Now Finland, with accusations about al-Taee. The activist says some of Hussein’s posts are “Iranian propaganda”.
Al-Taee describes his previous thoughts about Israel as “deeply disgusting” and says he is committed to working to combat “the alarming spread of anti-Semitism in Europe”.
“I also think the idea that the State of Israeli is to blame for all the conflicts in the Middle East is flawed and simplistic. Comparing Israel to Isis was foolish” writes Hussein al-Taee.
“I remain critical of the human rights violations of Israel, but I see the causes and consequences of conflict more deeply than before. I have never worked against Israel” he adds.
Accusations of anti-Semitism
The most damning comments in the Jerusalem Post story come from the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem.
“This guy [Hussein al-Taee] is obviously an anti-Semite” Dr Efraim Zuroff is quoted as saying.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a Jewish human rights organisation that researches the Holocaust, and is perhaps best known for its work tracking down Nazi regime leaders.
Al-Taee’s job as a mediator for Helsinki’s Crisis Management Initiative CMI was called into question by another Israeli non-governmental organisation in the Jerusalem Post article. CMI was founded and run until recently by former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari.
The organisation responded to the Jerusalem Post story saying al-Taee was “de facto” no longer employed by the organisation since he took up his role as a member of parliament.
“CMI unequivocally condemns all inappropriate and derogatory comments about any ethnic, religious, national and other groups” a spokesperson told the Israeli newspaper.
However, CMI has removed all mentions of Al-Taee from their website since the Jerusalem Post story was published.