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Sat, 11 July 2020

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By Andrew McQuillan
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Conservatives urged to dump candidate who claimed British Jews returned from Israel as 'brainwashed extremists'

Conservatives urged to dump candidate who claimed British Jews returned from Israel as 'brainwashed extremists'
3 min read

The Tories have come under pressure to ditch a general election candidate after it was revealed he had described British Jews returning from Israel as "brainwashed extremists".


The party's Leeds North East candidate, Amjad Bashir, was forced to apologise for the remarks in which he claimed there was something "very peculiar" going on in Israel.

Mr Bashir, a former Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, made the comments during a European Parliament debate on Gaza in 2014.

He defected to the Conservatives the following year, and remained as the party's representative for the region until July 2019.

Speaking during the debate, he said: "Young men are going over from England where I come from - people of the Jewish faith who my grandchildren have grown up with as decent young men.

"But have come back as extremists - as people that are brainwashed.

"They will not listen to reason. There is something very peculiar and wrong going on in Israel."

During that same year, Mr Bashir also accused the chair of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee of being an "apologist" for Israel.

But the comments have provoked fury from fellow candidates in the Yorkshire seat, who have urged the Conservatives to expel him from the party.

Liberal Democrat candidate Jon Hannah tweeted: "Is it just me or have the Tories lost the plot?

"Putting an ex-UKIP MEP who talks publicly about how the Israeli state brainwashes English Jews up as a candidate in Leeds North East.

"Repellant anti-semitism. It seems it isn't just Labour with a problem."

The Conservatives are now believed to be investigating the remarks.

"Alarm and distress"

Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, Mr Bashir apologised for causing "alarm and distress" with the comments which he claimed came from his "personal experience".

"I deeply regret the comments I made around brainwashing - this was borne from a personal experience but it was completely wrong and I apologise unreservedly for it," he said.

"I have always been a strong advocate of a two state solution between Israel and Palestine so we can finally put an end to this conflict and the bloodshed and pain it has caused on both sides.

"Having visited Gaza in the past, I did speak with a degree of emotion about the humanitarian situation I witnessed there, and frustration about the lack of progress towards establishing a lasting peace for the benefit of both Israel and Palestine, but I accept the tone I took has caused alarm and distress within the Jewish community, for which I apologise."

He added: "I continue to believe that the only hope for lasting peace for both Israel and Palestine is constructive dialogue and I will continue to work with both communities to do whatever I can to help achieve that, in particular our strong Jewish community in Leeds North East."

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn was forced to defend his record on tackling anti-semitism during a speech to the CBI on Monday when he was asked whether his party was "for the many, not the Jew".

It comes after his party refused to launch a probe into a candidate who helped run a secret Facebook group which advised fellow members facing disiplinary action for making anti-semitism remarks.

But the Labour leader insisted he had spent his life "opposing racism in any form" and vowed to boost security for all places of worship around the country if elected Prime Minister.

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