David Rose

Local elections only underline UK’s problem with extremism in politics

Imtiaz Ali, who won for the Greens in Peterborough, said ‘Zionists are nothing more than common thieves’


Abdul Malik (right) poses with Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer

May 04, 2024 10:20

In the small hours of Friday morning, it was revealed that voters in the city of Peterborough had elected a new Green councillor in the Orton Longueville ward. Imtiaz Ali, who polled 669 votes, gained a majority of just 22 over his nearest, Tory rival.

It was bracing news. Ali, as I informed JC readers earlier in the week, only joined the Greens 2021, after he was deselected as a council candidate by Labour having accused Israel on social media of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid”. Having switched parties, Ali issued a post on Facebook last December saying “Zionists are nothing more than common thieves. Willing to massacre thousands in the process.”

I’ve written about several Green and Tory candidates with extreme anti-Zionist views over the past two weeks, and so far as I know, at the time of this writing Ali is the only one who has taken a council seat. Welcome as this is, my relief is somewhat limited. It remains deeply concerning that these individuals were ever selected at all.

It used to be the Labour Party that seemed to be unable to vet its candidates, but its processes have become much more rigorous. It now has teams of officials combing through social media timelines, using search terms such as “Zionist” and “Jew”, and carefully checking possible candidates’ records. So far, it seems this process has been effective. But the Greens and Tories? Alas, not so much.

Part of the problem for the Greens are defectors from Corbyn-era Labour such as Imtiaz Ali. Arguably the worst example is Abdul Malik, who appeared to have shared a video on his Facebook page shortly after the October 7 massacre – a link to a Hamas press conference at which the terror group not only defended its freshly-perpetrated atrocities, but called Israel a “cancer that has to be eradicated”.

After the video was raised by Lord Mann, the government’s adviser on antisemitism, a Green party spokesman apologised, saying Malik was “unwittingly tagged into an offensive post that he assures us he did not himself publish”. But a screenshot of the post published by the JC appeared to show this was simply untrue: the video looked to have been posted on Malik’s own Facebook account, using the same thumbnail photo featured on more recent posts in which he has tried to boost his prospects for the election. It’s worth remembering here that Hamas has been proscribed in its entirety as a terrorist organisation since 2021.

Equally pusillanimous was the party’s response to another of its Bristol candidates, Mohamed Makawi, who had to apologise for posts he shared on X in November. One post claimed the police of the “Zionist enemy " had said that the 360-plus people murdered at the Nova dance festival in southern Israel may have been killed by an “Israeli plane”.

Another stated it had been confirmed “beyond a reasonable doubt what the Palestinian resistance said that it targeted Israeli military sites on the 7th of October, and that most of the dead Israeli civilians were killed by the Israeli army or during an exchange of fire”, while talk of Hamas’s terrorist attack was just an "American-Zionist lie".

Yet a Green spokesman told me the party would not be suspending him, because it had now given him “social media training”. Is that somehow all right then? But the same spokesman had the chutzpah to go on to tell me: “As a political party we stand in solidarity with our Jewish communities in our collective fight against antisemitism.” Pass the sickbag.

How, it is reasonable to ask, did the Tories ever get to choose Shajan Ali in Hyndburn, who took a selfie out on the stump last month with PM Rishi Sunak? Late last year Ali circulated a video in which a leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir demanded Arab states attack Israel, shortly before the jihadist group was proscribed as a terror organisation. Or Mazhar Iqbal, who stood in Bolton, who had shared a post in March that said: “May Allah wipe Israel off the face of the earth”.

Another Tory who, I’m pleased to say, lost, was Ishfaq Hussein in Peterborough, who was reported by the local press back in 2021 to have issued posts claiming Jewish people living in Israel were “not true Jews”, that Zionism was “one of the worst afflictions in the world”.

And let’s not forget Mohammad Aslam, who is about to become the mayor of Pendle in Lancashire. In 2019, the JC reported that he had shared a post on Facebook claiming the Jewish then-Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was “funded by the Israel lobby”, and another decrying “radical Jewish terrorism”. In another post, he shared a video with a caption reading “Jerusalem, we are coming” beneath an image of gun-toting militants in a military parade. The Tory Party said in 2019 that it was investigating him but has never reported the outcome, and evidently, he has remained in the party and on the council - raising further questions about the Conservatives’ vetting and enforcement procedures.

For most commentators, the big story about the local elections of 2024 will be the size of the swing to Labour, the ongoing Tory decline and what it means for the future of Sunak.

Regrettably, for me it’s the further evidence that extreme anti-Zionism and, in some cases, rank Jew-hatred, have continued to be normalised. And there seems to be nothing much two of our significant political parties are willing to do about it.

May 04, 2024 10:20

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