UK BUSINESS SECRETARY Sajid Javid speaks at the UK Israel Business annual awards dinner on Monday..
(photo credit: BLAKE EZRA PHOTOGRAPHY)
LONDON – Newly appointed Business Secretary Sajid Javid condemned Britain’s National Union of Students on Monday for supporting a boycott of Israel, declaring bluntly that the group’s recent move to join the BDS movement was not only an isolated view, but one that the government and most of the country did not share.
Addressing UK Israel Business – the bilateral chamber of commerce between the two nations – at its annual awards dinner, Javid added that the student union’s rejection of a motion calling for a boycott of Islamic State last year “spoke volumes.”
He recalled that last December, in his previous government post as culture, media and sport secretary, he had addressed the union and told it that he had “no time for the boycott campaign.” For him, he said, freedom was an absolute concept – and while he was speaking of artistic freedom at the time, he now included the freedom to trade and to go about one’s business in peace.
To prolonged applause, he added, “Today I talk of the idea that underpins the entire political philosophy that I hold – that of free enterprise. It simply does not make sense to say, ‘I believe in the free market,’ so let me be very clear: I do not believe in boycotts, nor, I am proud to say, does my party, my prime minister or, for the most, part my country.”
In a clear message to UK businesses in general, he pledged to do all he could to expand trade, especially with Israel.
“My department... will be working hard to boost Anglo-Israeli trade and investment, and I as business secretary will do anything I can to support and promote it,” he said.
Earlier, he had described the most recent period of trading between the two countries as a “golden era,” adding that what really excited him “are the possibilities for the years that lie ahead.”
Javid, whom some see as a potential Conservative Party leader and future prime minister, reflected on his long-term appreciation of and support for Israel.
He noted that over the past 67 years, Israel had made business boom in the barren desert.
“It’s one of the many reasons I have long admired the country,” he said. “I [have] traveled there extensively, both for business and with family, and taken a great interest in its affairs.”
He concluded that “the values that make Israel such a success are values that matter a great deal to me. I share Israel’s love for freedom and democracy. I admire its tenacious determination when the odds are stacked against it.”
Also at the dinner, Sir Harry Solomon, the former chairman of one of the UK’s largest food companies, received the British Israeli Business’s Lifetime Achievement award.
In his subsequent comments, he warned that the Israeli economy was under threat from the rapidly expanding growth of the BDS movement.
“This insidious, sophisticated and well-oiled movement presents a real strategic danger to Israel, and if it is not halted, not only could it damage the Israeli economy, it could actually position the democratic Jewish state – the only democracy in the Middle East – as the South Africa of 2020.”
That, in fact, is the clear intention of the BDS movement, he stated.
Appealing to his businessmen, he said that “whatever our personal views may be of some of the policies of the current Israeli government, we must fight against this [movement].... Bilateral trade with Israel is essential to help counter the threat from this dangerous organization.”
Other awards at the dinner went to British and Israeli companies.
Low-cost airline Easyjet was named British company of the year, with what will soon become 37 departures a week to Europe carrying more than half a million passengers a year. The Israeli company of the year was Orbotech, which produces automated optical inspection systems for producers of electronic components.
The award for most promising company of the year went to Zeek, which is behind a mobile application helping consumers sell their unwanted gift vouchers and store credits to other customers at a discount. And the Israeli listed company of the year was XLMedia, an online performance marketing company that attracts paying users from multiple online and mobile channels and directs