British Jews return from Israel as ‘brainwashed extremists’, said Tory candidate The Conservative party logo. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
A Conservative Party general election candidate has courted controversy for saying British Jews are returning from trips to Israel as “brainwashed extremists.”
Amjad Bashir has apologised for the comments, which resurfaced this week, that he made when he was a Ukip MEP in 2014.
In a European parliament debate on Gaza in 2014, Bashir said: “As far as brainwashing by the rabbis and the politicians are concerned – I can testify to that.
“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.”
Bashir, a restaurateur, defected from the Conservatives to Ukip in 2012, and returned in 2015.
Bashir’s comments sparked outrage from Lib Dem Leeds North East candidate Jon Hannah who wrote on Twitter: “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 controversy surfaced after Bashir’s nomination last Thursday for the December 12 election.
Apologising for the comments, Bashir told the Jewish Chronicle: “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.
“I accept the tone I took has caused alarm and distress within the Jewish community, for which I apologise. 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.”