A SENIOR Labour councillor has been suspended by the party for calling Israel 'crueller than crocodiles' and accusing its government of kidnapping Palestinian children to harvest their organs.

Former Blackburn with Darwen Council executive board member Cllr Yusuf Jan-Virmani made the comments in a debate on the recent Middle East conflict at the authority’s annual meeting on Thursday night.

He is the third borough councillor to be disciplined by Labour for alleged anti-Semitism after the expulsion of former deputy leader Andy Kay and suspension of Cllr Tasleem Fazal over social media posts.

The party’s action followed Blackburn Conservative Association calling for an investigation.

The motion proposed by the council’s digital services boss Cllr Quesir Mahmood was passed unanimously after he accepted a Conservative amendment condemning all violence in the conflict as well as ‘the blatant disregard for human rights by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian lands’.

Audley and Queens Park ward’s Cllr Jan-Virmani said in the debate: “I am not aware of any animal that is so cruel as the Israelis. Not even crocodiles.

“They bomb schools day and night. Hospitals, they have bombed them. They have flattened them. Refugee camps, they are bombing them.

“They kidnap the kids and harvest their organs. And that’s been proven from the United Nations.

“They inject people. They murder by land sea and air and worst of all the Israelis slander the defenceless victims, Palestinians, as terrorists.”

A Labour spokeswoman said: “The party takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

Senior sources confirmed to the Lancashire Telegraph that Cllr Jan-Virmani has been ‘administratively suspended from the Labour Party, pending investigation’.

Rick Moore, deputy chairman (political) of Blackburn Conservative Association, said: “In regards to Cllr Jan-Virmani’s speech, I am concerned that it seems to be clearly anti-Semitic in nature, comparing the Israeli people to animals which is clearly unacceptable. I urge the Labour group in Blackburn and Blackburn Council to urgently investigate this member over the clearly anti-Semitic comments he has made.”

Cllr Jan-Virmani said: “I stand by what I said. It was nothing to do with Jews. It was criticism of the Israeli government.”

Cllr Phil Riley, secretary of Blackburn Labour Party, said: “Recent events in Palestine have naturally raised emotions.

“Blackburn Labour Party condemns all forms of racism and anti-Semitism as specifically mentioned by Cllr Mahmood.”