Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes an appearance in London.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
The Board of Deputies of British Jews emphasized its strong opposition to boycotts, in response to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s reiteration of his support for boycotting settlements in the West Bank.
“Boycotts are deeply divisive, serve only to import international conflict into our shops, theaters and communities and provoke intransigence from both sides. None of this is at all helpful in the pursuit of peace,” the board said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The comment came after both Corbyn and his Labour leadership rival Owen Smith responded to the board’s request that they clarify their views on issues of concern for the UK Jewish community.
The organization stressed that it is not political and does now wish to appear partisan, but feels obliged to speak out against boycotts.
A letter penned by the board’s chief executive Gillian Merron to both candidates in next month’s Labour leadership election raised concerns regarding the Chakrabarti Report on anti-Semitism within the party, and asked that Corbyn and Smith pledge to honor the board’s “Ten Commitments.”
The latter is a part of the board’s Jewish Manifesto, and includes requests to parliamentarians regarding policy on issues that affect British Jewry.
While Smith responded that he was “very happy to sign up to the Ten Commitments,” Corbyn expressed reservations.
He wrote that while he was supportive of the policy statements, he wished to clarify his position on Commitment 6, which asks that MPs “promote peace projects that unite communities, and resist boycotts that divide communities.”
“I am not in favor of the academic or cultural boycott of Israel, and I am not in favor of a blanket boycott of Israeli goods,” Corbyn stated, before adding that he does support “targeted boycotts aimed at undermining the existence of illegal settlements in the West Bank.”
Corbyn’s letter was otherwise supportive of Merron’s requests, and both he and Smith expressed concern about anti-Semitism in their party. Addressing the Chakrabarti Report, Corbyn said, “I welcome the support and advice you have already started giving as we develop our [anti-racism] training and consider it imperative that the party continues to consult the Board of Deputies and other Jewish groups on this matter.”
A Labour Friends of Israel representative said, “We welcome Owen Smith’s unequivocal opposition to BDS and the delegitimization of the State of Israel. Whoever is elected, we will ensure that long-standing Labour policy opposing boycotts in any shape and form is maintained.”
The Community Security Trust – devoted to protecting the UK’s Jewish community – told the Post that “the current Labour leadership knows what it must do to gain the confidence of British Jews, including most Jewish Labour supporters.
Its repeated behavior speaks far louder than a few words.”
The Labour party suffered from an anti-Semitism crisis this year, resulting in several high-profile suspensions and culminating in the aforementioned Chakrabarti inquiry.
The winner of the Labour leadership race will be announced on September 24.