More Jews should join Ukip to help the party combat far-right extremism and bolster support for Israel, activists have claimed.
Revelations about extreme comments made by Ukip candidates ahead of today’s local elections should not discourage members of the Jewish community from supporting the party they said.
Jeremy Zeid, chair of Ukip’s Harrow branch in London, claimed an increased number of Jewish members had helped contribute to “healthy debate” within the party. They were now part of a “broad church” of supporters tackling extreme views.
Backing for Israel within Ukip was “massive” and growing, added Curtis Sinclair, an executive member of the Ukip Friends of Israel group.
They were speaking after it emerged last week that Ukip candidates in Rotherham, south Yorkshire and in Leicester had links to the far-right British National Party.
In a separate incident, the party suspended a candidate in Sussex over comments attributed to her which attacked Zionists and accused Jews of engineering the Second World War.
Mr Zeid, a former Conservative councillor, said he had been surprised by the “considerable” Jewish support within Ukip when he joined the party last year. He claimed one Jewish member was a “major financial contributor” and had direct access to leader Nigel Farage.
Mr Zeid said: “At last year’s conference I was amazed at how many Jewish members, many religious, were in attendance. There is quite high Jewish membership in Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham. There is also a lot of non-Jewish support for Israel in the party.
“We have our fair share of cranks and lunatics. Every party has. That’s politics.”
Mr Sinclair said: “Ukip Friends of Israel is part of the solution to ensuring these sort of people don’t stand again. A strong friends group is helpful for achieving a decent stable of candidates.
Referring to the suspension of the candidate in Sussex, a Ukip spokeswoman said: “While we have vigorous selection procedures in place for Westminster and European elections, in these county council elections we have to some degree had to rely on good judgment of our local branches.”