Boycott Israel sign.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Pressure from Jewish community leaders and local Conservative councillors has secured a significant change of mind by the Dudley Council, which was due to have voted on a “boycott Israeli goods and services” resolution on Monday.
The Labor Party-dominated council of the west Midlands town near Birmingham looked likely to adopt a policy similar to its east Midlands neighbor, Leicester, which two weeks ago agreed to a boycott policy, even though UK laws effectively forbid councils from exercising discrimination in their procurement activities.
The boycott resolution was being proposed by Labor councillor Qadar Zada, who called on the council to end “existing and future procurement of goods and services where there is a direct benefit to the State of Israel, including through the supply chain, subject to legal compliance with all relevant procurement, contractual, legislative and regulatory requirements, until such time as the State of Israel complies with international law.”
However, only last Wednesday Labor leader Ed Miliband told a fund-raising dinner of the Labor Friends of Palestine and the Middle East that the party opposes any boycott calls against Israel – the first time, it is believed, he had expressed that view to a pro-Palestinian audience.
A possible factor in the move to introduce a boycott of Israeli goods and services is thought to have been a way of undermining one of the town’s MPs, Ian Austin, who, while being a Labor Party representative, has consistently and often bravely stood up for Israel on the opposition benches in the House of Commons.
Over the last couple of weeks both the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council had joined in representations to Dudley councillors on the issue. Simon Johnson, the JLC’s chief executive, said he welcomed Dudley Council’s decision to withdraw its proposed boycott motion and thanked its councillors for taking account of the concerns expressed in his organization’s recent representations.
“The proposed motion would have been illegal, contrary to the policies of the leaders of all major political parties and contrary to the stated aims of the Palestinian Authority. We hope that such a motion will not be reintroduced in future,” he added.
The leader of the town’s Conservative councillors, Patrick Hurley, told London’s Jewish News that not only had they been vocal in their opposition to the move but they would have voted against the motion.
He added: “I believe it will now be kicked into the long grass. Needless to say, if they are stupid enough to bring it back at anytime, then the Conservative Group will vote against.”
Interestingly, the seven UK Independence Party councillors on Dudley Council, its third-largest grouping, also planned to oppose the motion.
Its leader, Paul Brothwood, described the motion as “an affront to good community relations” that goes far beyond even what the PA has called for.
He added: “The local Labor Party seem to be caring more about the West Bank then the West Midlands. They are being narrow and divisive. In reality this motion is unworkable, as the council would need to throw out most computers, most modern phones, a quarter of NHS generic drugs and all their latest scanners.”
Brothwood also claimed that the move was “almost certainly illegal,” suggesting it “transgresses the council’s legal responsibility to seek best value in its procurement policies and introduces discriminatory conditions which may result in the borough receiving poorer value for money than it might otherwise receive. Also, it is highly likely that it breaches equal opportunities legislation because it discriminates against suppliers on the grounds of nationality.”