Conservative Party

Tories select anti-Israel activist who supports boycott and sanctions


When Kelly Tolhurst was selected in an “open primary” to fight the forthcoming by-election in Rochester & Strood, there was jubilation that the Conservative Party had found in her a strong, intelligent, local candidate who had lived in the area all her life. Not only that; she also cares deeply about hospitals and deeply about the NHS and deeply about immigration. It helps, of course, that she is also young, female and glamorously telegenic. But since both candidates in this “open primary” (as the Conservatives insist on calling it) were young, female and glamorously telegenic, the result was perhaps foregone. The elite committee that selected them obviously binned the men’s CVs and discounted any women who might have looked a bit like Ann Widdecombe. They wanted a fetching, charismatic, camera-ready Cameroon – the best way of beating the middle-aged, male and rather plain if not geeky Ukip-defector Mark Reckless.

It must have disappointed CCHQ that only 5,688 Rochester & Strood voters bothered to participate in this election, representing about 7.5% of those eligible. Kelly Tolhurst won 50.44% of the vote (2,869), which amounts to endorsement not so much by the whole constituency as just 12% of those who voted for Mark Reckless in 2010. But enough of the tedious psephology. The thing is, Miss Tolhurst is an anti-Israel activist who supports BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) – “a truly global movement against Israeli Apartheid” – and opposes the Israeli “occupation” of Palestine. The Jewish Chronicle unearthed the evidence:

During the Gaza conflict in July and August her Twitter account regularly posted messages calling on supporters to boycott Israeli companies. She also re-posted messages from the “Free Gaza Movement”.

She repeatedly targeted companies, including SodaStream and Ahava, and encouraged others to “hold Israel accountable for its violation of international law”.

Ms Tolhurst also posted critical messages relating to Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

..During Israel’s Pillar of Defence operation to stop Hamas rocket attacks she posted tweets using hashtags including #Palestineunderattack and #VivaPalestina.

Now, Miss Tolhurst has made it clear that she condemns violence on both sides of the conflict and is committed to a two-state solution. This being the case, there is a curious absence in her Twitter stream of the hashtags #Israelunderattack and #VivaIsrael, and not much mention either of Gaza’s terror tunnels or Hamas’s propensity to sacrifice Palestinian women and children in staged slaughters for the purposes of media propaganda.

By supporting the Free Gaza Movement, Miss Tolhurst approves of those who have openly declared that they seek “to ramp up resistance” rather than work for peace and reconciliation. They pretend to work for justice and human rights, but, according to board member Adam Shapiro: “Free Gaza is but one tactic of a larger strategy, to transform this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians, or Israel and the Arab world… to one between the rest of the world and Israel.” The strategy of jihadi escalation is clear: no right-minded Conservative and no Christian ought to support such a destructive, divisive, hate-mongering organisation.

By targeting companies like SodaStream and Ahava, Miss Tolhurst strikes at the very legitimate economic activity which provides thousands of Palestinian Arabs with their livelihoods, workers’ rights and job security. Her appeals to “international law” are superficial, misguided and false. Only by twisting the Geneva Convention (if she’s read it) beyond the plainest meaning of Jewish legal entitlement could she believe that international law is being violated.

By endorsing BDS, Miss Tolhurst identifies with those who seek to isolate, delegitimise and ultimately eradicate the State of Israel by a war of economic attrition. BDS demands the unconditional dismantling of Israel’s security wall and the establishment of a “viable” Palestinian state. They are pledged to “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality”, and the inalienable right of return for those who were displaced in 1948.

If Israel were to open its borders to all those in Trans-Jordan (and beyond) who claim refugee status; if Israel were to dismantle the security wall and cede to Hamas all the land it claims; if Israel were to cease seeking out Palestinian terrorists and halt the bombing of Gaza’s missile-launchers, the consequences for Israel and Israelis would be apocalyptic and existential.

Kelly Tolhurst hasn’t been tweeting much about the appalling human rights violations of China, Cuba, Myanmar or North Korea. She hasn’t been sharing hashtags decrying the oppression and suffering of minorities in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan. No, it is Israel alone which attracts her censure: it is Israel alone which must be discredited, quarantined and demonised. And it is such ignorance of justice, history, honesty and basic morality which foments the sort of hate that burns down synagogues and brings down anti-Semitic hordes to demolish supermarket kosher counters.

But Kelly Tolhurst ought not to be deselected for her beliefs. No, in a liberal democracy she is entitled to her views and ought to be free to propagate them. Her unfortunate selection is simply a natural consequence of the Conservative Party’s nullification of candidate meritocracy and CCHQ’s obsession with advancing female councillors. It is now for the people of Rochester & Strood to deliver their verdict on 20th November: Mark Reckless ought to be feeling a little more secure.