Labour defends council candidate following anti-Israel Facebook posts

Ray Mooney, the Labour party's North Norfolk constituency chairman. Picture: Elaine Addison.

Ray Mooney, the Labour party's North Norfolk constituency chairman. Picture: Elaine Addison. - Credit: Elaine Addison

A constituency Labour party chairman has defended a council candidate amid claims in the national press she is under investigation for anti-Semitism.

The Sunday Times reported that Jean Thirtle, of Catfield, who is hoping to represent Hoveton and Tunstead ward on North Norfolk District Council after elections on May 2, had published comments on Facebook that has led to a Labour inquiry as part of an ongoing row into anti-Semitism in the party.

But Ray Mooney, the party's north Norfolk constituency chairman, said he was unaware of any complaints or investigation into Ms Thirtle's comments, which reflected views the 67-year-old still held.

Mr Mooney said: 'She's a valued member of the Labour party and her saying that the Israeli government is pursuing policies against minorities is not an anti-Semitic statement. It's a statement of fact against a right-wing, racist government.

'That's no different to saying the Brunei's government persecuting gay people is anti-Muslim.'

Mr Mooney emphasised that such comments were no criticism of the Jewish people.

He said: 'It's like saying that if you criticise the government you are criticising the entire country and that's not the case, and I think it sets quite a dangerous precedent.'

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The Times quoted Facebook posts by Ms Thirtle, including one in which she described the foundation of Israel as 'racist' and complained that 'since its founding it has deployed racist policies and conduct towards Palestinians and other minorities.'

Mr Mooney said Ms Thirtle stood by those posts, as well as one shared in July last year, which showed Israeli and Nazi flags side by side.

Mr Mooney said: 'Those are her views and she's entitled to them.'

Ms Thirtle is quoted as saying: 'I consider that making comparisons between the Israeli government and the Nazis, while not being anti-Semitic... is cheap and insensitive and contributes nothing to the debate.'

Ms Thirtle declined to comment to this newspaper.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said in March in response to wider complaints about anti-Semitism in the Labour party: 'We believe the Labour Party may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs.'