U.K. Tories Tap anti-Israel Activist for By-election

Views of Kelly Tolhurst, who supports BDS, go against official Conservative Party position.

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The British Parliament building, London. September 10, 2010.
The British Parliament building, London. September 10, 2010.Credit: Dreamstime

Britain's Conservative Party has selected an anti-Israel activist who supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as its candidate in an upcoming by-election in the constituency of Rochester and Strood, Kent.

The candidate, Kelly Tolhurst, on Thursday won an open primary in which she garnered 50.44% of the vote.

The by-election, which is scheduled for November 20, was called after the sitting lawmaker, MP Mark Reckless, defected from the Tories to the U.K. Independence Party.

Tolhurst is a vocal anti-Israel activist, according to the Jewish Chronicle, which reported that she has regularly used her Twitter account to call for the boycott of Israeli companies including SodaStream and Ahava.

Tolhurst also reportedly published posts that were critical of the Israeli army's actions in the Gaza Strip, and backed a petition calling on Britain's government to send a hospital aid ship to Gaza.

The Chronicle also reported that, in 2012, Tolhurst expressed disappointment that Britain had abstained during a United Nations vote on recognizing a Palestinian state.

Her views on Israel contradict that of the British government. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is against a boycott of Israel, and even told the Knesset during a visit in March: “To those who want to boycott Israel I have a clear message. Britain opposes boycotts.”

“I’m honored that thousands of local people have voted to select me as the Conservative candidate for the upcoming byelection," Tolhurst said after the primary result was announced. "I will be a strong local voice, standing up for Rochester and Strood – my home.”

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