A Conservative party candidate has been suspended from the party over comments he made about British Jews returning from Israel as “brainwashed extremists”.
Amjad Bashir, who is standing for election in the Leeds North East constituency, has been accused of “repellent antisemitism” over the comments, which he made during a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels in 2014.
Speaking at a debate on Gaza, 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 Israel."
Mr Bashir has since apologised for his remarks and said he intends to meet local Jewish groups and travel to Israel “to gain direct experience from the situation on the ground there”.
He was confirmed as the Tory candidate to fight the December 12 general election last week, but a party spokesperson confirmed today that the party had withdrawn its support.
They said: “Mr Bashir has been suspended from the party pending investigation and election support has been withdrawn.”
A pro-Brexit restaurateur, Mr Bashir was elected as a Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber in 2014 before he defected to the Conservatives in 2015.
After the controversy surrounding his 2014 remarks was revived ahead of the upcoming election, Mr 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.”
But the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, said: “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’.
“We would urge the Conservative party to consider the suitability of allowing someone who has publicly aired such repellent views to stand as their candidate anywhere, let alone a constituency with a vibrant Jewish community.”