LONDON – Leicester city council, which is controlled by Britain’s main opposition party, Labor (it holds 51 of the council’s 55 seats), has instituted a ban of all Israeli goods despite Labor’s leader Ed Miliband saying he and his party oppose any boycotts.
Leicester is the UK’s 10th largest city, situated in the middle of the England, and has a population of 330,000, of whom approximately 93,000 are first or second generation immigrants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Some 61,000, about 19% of the city’s population, are Muslims, making it the 11th largest concentration of Muslims in the UK.
Its dwindling Jewish community was – at the last census taken in 2012 – just 295 strong, representing 0.1% of the population.
The resolution calling for a ban on Israeli goods was proposed by Councilor Mohammed Dawood and was passed by the city council on November 13.
The motion’s preamble said that Leicester was “renowned for its tolerance, diversity, unity and its strong stance against all forms of discrimination,” which it stated “enables different communities to live together.”
Justifying the motion, Dawood added that was important that “when there is oppression and injustices, that Leicester City Council takes up a position to support communities experiencing such inequalities and in this instance it is the plight of the Palestinian people.”
The council agreed to recognize “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and free from incursion,” but went on to condemn the government of Israel “for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank; for its continuing blockade of Gaza; and the illegal appropriation of land in the West Bank and settlement buildings.”
While regretting that the Israeli government “continues to ignore and breach international law, Geneva Convention and UN resolutions and continues with its occupation of Palestinian territories,” the councilors resolved “insofar as legal considerations allow, to boycott any produce originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank until such time as it complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian occupied territories.”
All this flies in the face of the often repeated but rarely publicized statement of Miliband, who, a party spokesman said, “has made clear that Labor does not support boycotts, they are not the answer and do not progress the cause of peace or help foster negotiations and dialogue.”The Jerusalem Post
also understands that another Midlands town council, that of Dudley, near Birmingham, has a similarly worded resolution coming before it next week, and that, emboldened by the recent parliamentary nonbinding vote favoring recognition of a Palestinian state, other local authority councils may well follow suit.
Luke Akehurst, the director of “We believe in Israel,” the UK’s major support organization for Israel and a former Labor councilor and member of Labor’s National Executive, told the Post
that he was surprised and disappointed to see a local authority making “such an contentious and unhelpful intervention in a complex international conflict.”
He added that he had hoped that Leicester City Council would have had more regard for local community cohesion and would have realized that gestures such as the resolution were “divisive.”
But drawing on his experience in local government, Akehurst highlighted the laws on procurement of goods and services, which mean “that councils cannot legally discriminate against companies with Israeli connections.”