Tory election candidate for Leeds North East claims British Jews return from Israel as 'brainwashed extremists'

Exclusive: Amjad Bashir expresses 'deep regret' to JC over comments he says were 'borne from personal experience'



The Conservative election candidate for Leeds North East has been accused of "repellent antisemitism" after claiming British Jews are travelling to Israel and returning as "brainwashed extremists."

In a speech delivered to the European Parliament in Brussels, Amjad Bashir 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 was confirmed as the Tory candidate to fight the December 12 election last week in a seat Labour's Fabian Hamilton is hoping to regain.

The Tories have sought to exploit Labour's antisemitism crisis ever since Mr Corbyn became leader - and have also positioned themselves as the pro-Israel party.

Leeds North East has a large Jewish population, many of who have been outraged by Mr Hamilton's close association with Jeremy Corbyn and his anti-Israel views.

On hearing Mr Bashir's speech in Brussels, local Liberal Democrat candidate Jon Hannah 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.

"Repellent antisemitism. It seems it isn't just Labour with a problem."

A restauranteur who moved to Yorkshire from Pakistan as a child, Mr Bashir defected from the Convervatives to Ukip in 2012, before returning to the Tories again in 2015.

The JC was alerted to his controversial views on Israel and Britain's Jews by a Leeds North East constituent who said she was "horrified that his views had escaped detection by Tory election planners."

Delivering a speech as the UKIP MEP for Yorkshire & Lincolnshire and member of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in Brussels in September 2014, Mr Bashir added: "As far as brainwashing by the rabbis and the politicians are concerned - I can testify to that."

He also appeared to suggest that that Muslims were being radicalised and joining groups such as Isis because of images showing the suffering of people in Gaza.

He said in his Brussels speech: "Isis does not represent Muslims, but they are radicalised when they see images you have shown.

"This is wrong, there is others ways of tackling it but you can't help  thinking why are they becoming radicalised?"

Mr Bashir added: "Victims of violence can become tomorrow's abusers.

"I say to you, and this is not with relish, this is with regret, the people who are subjected to violence can become extremists and terrorists."

After Mr Bashir's speech appeared on YouTube one viewer wrote: "What a joke. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and the most successful country in the region. "

Another said: "Not a mention of Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Bashir needs to go."

In another speech, delivered to the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in August 2014, Mr Bashir called the chair of the session an "apologist" for Israel.

He said of German politician Elmar Brok: "I have never seen such an apologist as our president. He should be an emissary for Israel."

In a statement on Monday, Mr Bashir told the JC: "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 have always been a strong advocate of a two state solution between Israel and Palestine so we can finally put an end to this conflict and the bloodshed and pain it has caused on both sides.

“Having visited Gaza in the past, I did speak with a degree of emotion about the humanitarian situation I witnessed there, and frustration about the lack of progress towards establishing a lasting peace for the benefit of both Israel and Palestine, but 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.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive