A public health expert at the centre of criticism of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has a long history of making inflammatory statements, comparing "Zionists" to Nazis and wrote that "Jews" should reflect on the actions of the Israeli military, the JC can reveal.
Professor John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, appeared on BBC Panorama on Monday to discuss the findings of an investigation into the failure to stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff.
But aside from offering his advice over health issues, Professor Ashton, who has been a long-time member of the Labour Party, regularly posts on social media on issues involving Israel and Zionism. In one tweet he suggested it was, "Time to isolate Zionists and all religious fundamentalists whatever colour of black."
An analysis of social media posts made by the former President of the Faculty of Public Health from 2012 until 2018 shows that he has frequently equated Zionism with Nazism.
Writing in November 2012 in response to Israeli military actions in Gaza, he stated: "Sickening to see Zionists behave like Nazis."
When challenged by former Labour MP John Woodcock over allegations that Hamas terrorists were using Palestinian families as human shields in the same conflict, Professor Ashton wrote: "The Nazi thing was not a distraction to the Jews in Europe. The Zionist thing is not a distraction to the Palestinians."
Following comments made in 2013 by Ed Miliband, the then Labour leader, that he would consider himself to be a Zionist, Mr Ashton, one of the initiators of the World Health Organisation's Healthy Cities Project, again went on the attack. In March 2013 he wrote: "Is this true? If Miliband is a Zionist what are the humanistic internationalists to do? Is this Labour Party policy?"
He then added: "Time for an enquiry in Labour Friends of Israel. A party within a party."
When it was pointed out that LFI was only affiliated to Labour, the Professor wrote: "Aah sorry I misunderstood. Allegation seems to be that way to get on in Party is to curry favour with zionist donors."
In 2014, responding to a report into post-traumatic stress disorder in Gaza, Mr Ashton tweeted: "Can anybody begin to imagine the impact on the mental health of survivors of the Gaza Ghetto? Surely time for Jews to reflect."
The academic, who has held positions at Liverpool and Southampton universities, wrote in April 2018 that: "In Germany in the 1930s the Nazis blamed the Jews for everything. In UK in 2018 the Tories blame Corbyn for everything."
In September 2016, Professor Ashton was forced to apologise for the use of inappropriate and offensive language on Twitter after commenting on the WHO’s call for a ban on e-cigarettes. He called one e-cigarette advocate a "c**t" and another an "onanist" and took voluntary leave of absence from the Faculty of Public Health.
After being contacted by the JC, Prof Ashton said: “’I think this is mischievous and I don’t recognise most of what you have just read to me. My position about antisemitism is very clear. I have always stood firm against antisemitism.’’
He added: “I really don’t know what you are about.”
Asked about his comparisons between Zionists and Nazis he said: “I have never compared Jews to Nazis. I would suggest in the interest of world peace to really try to make something out of this is really unhelpful. I am very strongly for interfaith understanding.’’
Credit for all tweets posted here: Twitter