Labour calls on East Herts Council chair Martin Butcher to resign over comments about Israel
East Herts Council’s Labour group has called on the authority’s Green Party chairman to resign over social media comments about Israel.
Cllr Martin Butcher was already under fire from Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson and the district’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups over posts on X (formerly Twitter) about the attack by Hamas.
The five-strong Labour group – Bishop’s Stortford’s Cllrs Yvonne Estop, David Jacobs and Dave Willcocks and their Hertford Sele colleagues Nahum Clements and Carolyn Redfern – said those comments were the latest in a string of anti-Israel sentiment on his social media.
The members confirmed they would be lodging their own complaint with the council’s monitoring officer.
East Herts is already reviewing Cllr Butcher’s conduct after Mrs Marson wrote to chief executive Richard Cassidy and the leader, the Green Party’s Cllr Ben Crystall, to protest about his “deplorable” social media activity.
The Labour group said in a statement: “We are all shocked and appalled by recent events in Israel. We unequivocally and utterly condemn the senseless murder of men, women and children – including British citizens – in cold blood by the terrorists of Hamas.
“The Labour Party believes in a two-state solution to resolve this long-running conflict: a secure Palestinian state alongside a safe Israel. The recent attacks by Hamas do nothing for Palestinians. We are also deeply concerned for the people trapped in Gaza, appalled at the ongoing loss of life and saddened by the destruction of hope by war.”
The councillors said they were “dismayed” by Cllr Butcher’s most recent posts on X in which he called on the Green Party to condemn “Israeli murders of civilians”, calling the party’s approach “one-sided” and “unacceptable”.
He has also reposted a comment describing the Hamas attack as “a bit wild”, and criticised President Zelenskyy of Ukraine for condemning the attacks.
The Labour statement said: “These comments do not appear in a vacuum. Cllr Butcher has consistently used his social media accounts to criticise Israel and justify attacks on its citizens.”
Cllr Butcher, who works for Oxfam mitigating the effects of conflict on civilians, has two X accounts: @WareGreenCllr and @ButcherMartin. In evidence, the Labour group cited examples from the latter, his personal account, dated before he was appointed East Herts chair on May 17.
On January 27 this year, he justified an attack in Jerusalem in which eight Israelis were murdered by saying: “When you occupy other people’s land, ethnically cleanse it and impose apartheid rule, people resist. That’s natural.”
On March 4, he claimed that from Israel’s foundation “genocidal violence has been at the core of its (Israel’s) identity”. The next day he stated: “There is no two-state solution; the settler colonialist killers have destroyed that option.”
In April, three English women from the same family – Lucy Dee and her daughters Maia, 20, and Rina, 15 – were murdered in the West Bank. Cllr Butcher tweeted in response: “Sadly, if you commit a war crime to live illegally in someone else’s occupied land, then this sort of thing happens… these women had no need nor right to be where they were.”
On May 13, he reposted a comment containing the words “death to Israel”. The next day he responded to the anniversary of the foundation of Israel by posting: “Congratulations on the birth of your settler colonialist nightmare, born of terrorism, murder and ethnic cleansing.”
The Labour group said: “Cllr Butcher is clearly in breach of East Herts Council’s code of conduct for councillors, in that he has brought both his role and the council into disrepute. He should consider his position both as chair of East Herts Council and as a councillor and resign.
“We call upon the leaders of the joint administration to make a clear statement on this issue as soon as possible.”
In response to Mrs Marson’s criticism, Cllr Butcher, a former primary and secondary school governor, issued a statement: “I unequivocally support an immediate end to the violence in Israel and Palestine and want to be absolutely clear that the deliberate targeting of civilians is utterly unacceptable under any circumstances.
“What matters above all else is our collective commitment to forging a permanent and peaceful resolution, one that safeguards the lives of innocent civilians.”
He also serves as a Ware town councillor and is deputy mayor of that town. He was elected as EHC's community figurehead in May when the Greens became the district’s largest party after the local elections. With 19 seats, they formed a power-sharing administration with the 10 Liberal Democrats, replacing the Conservatives.
The Labour five were the only members to abstain or vote against his appointment.
The Indie has offered Cllr Butcher and East Herts Green Party the opportunity to respond to Labour’s accusations.