The Conservatives have dropped a candidate criticised for making the “repellent” claim in 2014 that British Jews return from trips to Israel as “brainwashed extremists.”
The candidate for Leeds North East, Amjad Bashir, apologised for the comments, telling the Jewish Chronicle on Monday that he “deeply regrets 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, reiterating his support for a two-state solution to the conflict.
But a spokesperson for the Conservatives said on Wednesday: “Mr. Bashir has been suspended from the party pending investigation and election support has been withdrawn.”
Bashir, a former Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber who defected to the Conservatives in 2015, made the comment in September 2014 during a debate on Gaza at the European Parliament in Brussels.
“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,” he said. “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,” he added, referencing “rabbis and politicians.”
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl urged the Conservative Party on Monday to “consider the suitability of allowing someone who has publicly aired such repellent views to stand as their candidate anywhere, let alone in a constituency with a vibrant Jewish community.”
“We are extremely concerned at the language used by Amjad Bashir, the Conservative candidate for Leeds North East, who described British Jews travelling to Israel and returning as ‘brainwashed extremists’, blaming ‘rabbis and politicians,” she added.
Meanwhile, Conservative Friends of Israel’s parliamentary chairman Lord Eric Pickles and honorary president Lord Stuart Polak said: “Amjad Bashir’s statement made in 2014 suggesting dual loyalty of British Jews with Israel is completely unacceptable for a Conservative candidate to hold.”
“Israel is the only truly democratic state in the region, where the rule of law works and a key UK ally,” the statement read.
“Amjad Bashir is right to have made a full apology for remarks made five years ago. What he must make unambiguously clear are these are not his views now,” it added.
Amjad Bashir has been approached for comment.