Labour’s candidate for the densely Jewish constituency of Hertsmere has said she is “mortified|” about a social media comment she made backing an arms embargo on Israel.
In 2014, during the height of Israel’s operation against Hamas in Gaza, Fiona Smith tweeted: “Call on the UK government to halt the supply of arms to Israel. We must not facilitate war crimes”, alongside a link to an Amnesty International appeal.
But today, Ms Smith, who hopes to unseat Oliver Dowden’s 18,000 majority in the constituency, distanced herself from the 2014 Twitter comment.
She said: “This single tweet is three years old and happened as a result of my clicking on an Amnesty International campaign. I have no animus towards Israel whatsoever and am mortified that anybody might have been given that impression. I have a track record of campaigning against arms policies more generally, including Saudi arms deals”.
The Labour candidate said she recognised “that the explicitly stated policies and actions of terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and the threat from Iran all create unique security and defence requirements to enable Israel to protect its citizens. My understanding of this is underpinned by my background in our armed forces”.
Dowden, who is seeking re-election for the Tories, said: “Hertsmere needs a strong voice for its Jewish community not a Labour candidate who attacks Israel and whose leader offers friendship to Hamas and Hezbollah while anti-Semitism festers. As Hertsmere’s MP, these are exactly the sort of attitudes I sought to challenge – both as an officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel and Chairman of the Parliamentary group for British Jews.”
Ms Smith said she supported a two state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestiniansand that she opposed boycotts of Israel which “do nothing to further the cause of peace” The candidate added that she looked forward to visiting Israel “and building close links with our sister Labour Party over there”.
Hertsmere incorporates areas of Bushey, Borehamwood and Radlett, all of which have seen major Jewish population growth, according to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).
The constituency is home to the UK’s fastest growing Jewish community, which grew by 35 per cent between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. According to JPR’s report issued before the 2015 General Election, there were 14,293 Jews in the constituency, which has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1983.