Norwich Labour councillor quits party in race row over Facebook comments

Norwich City Council councillor Deborah Gihawi.Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich City Council councillor Deborah Gihawi.Photo: Steve Adams

A Norwich councillor caught up in a race row is set to quit Labour to stand as an independent, after she was suspended by the party.

Deborah Gihawi, who represents Mile Cross on Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council, has been suspended by Labour head office for allegedly breaching party rules with a Facebook comment.

Mrs Gihawi's comments were in support of BBC journalist Tim Wilcox, who recently apologised for a 'poorly phrased' question to the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

Urging people to sign a petition in support of Mr Wilcox, she made a remark on Facebook about Jews.

But Mrs Gihawi, who is Jewish, said her comment was not meant to apply to all Jewish people, but was her view on the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. She said: 'My family is as diverse as it gets and if we can live in peace and harmony then anyone can.

'The Palestinians are, in my view, getting a hard time from the Israeli Jews, but I, in no way, intended to upset the whole Jewish race.'

Mrs Gihawi said she was not sure who had complained to Labour head office, but had received a letter from their compliance officer that she was in breach of the party's constitution. A spokesman for the East of England Labour Party said Mrs Gihawi had been suspended, adding that the comments were 'totally unacceptable'.

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Former YMCA manager and social worker Mrs Gihawi, whose husband is from Libya, said: 'I am going to go independent. I thought standing up for the poor and weak wherever they are is what Labour were all about.'

She said nobody from the Labour group at City Hall had been in touch with her about the suspension, but that she was contacting the democratic services officers at City and County Hall to announce her desire to become an independent.

She intends to go to Norfolk County Council's Holocaust service tomorrow and to tomorrow night's meeting of Norwich City Council.

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