A Jewish organisation dedicated to opposing the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is seeking to take Leicester City Council to court over its recent decision to boycott Israel.
The organisation has accused the council of anti-Semitism, likening the council’s decision to the boycott of Jewish shops in Nazi Germany. The council has refuted the accusation.
Last November Leicester City Council voted in favour of a motion to support the BDS movement by undertaking a boycott of all goods produced in Israel’s West Bank. But Jewish Human Rights Watch says it believes Leicester City Council has singled out the Jewish State for special treatment in ways similar to traditional anti-Semitism in the past.
Director of JHRW Jonathan Neumann said: “Leicester City Council has taken steps down an anti-Semitic path under the guise of helping community relations in Leicester. Frankly this amounts to a get-of-out-town order to Leicester Jews.”
The boycott motion, brought before the Council by Labour Cllr Mohammed Dawood, condemned “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.
“It is with regret we note the Government of Israel continues to ignore and breach International Law, Geneva Convention and UN Resolutions and continues with its occupation of Palestinian territories,” the motion continued, concluding: “Therefore, Leicester City Council resolves, 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.”
But Jewish Human Rights Watch, founded earlier this year to combat the rise in anti-Semitism that has been a feature of British life over the last year, has hit back. It accused Leicester City Council of failing to take account of their obligations under the Local Government Act 1988 thus giving encouragement to anti-Semitic sentiment, and increasing the likelihood of harassment of the Jewish community.
Following unsuccessful appeals to the council to overturn its decision, JHRW has now called on the High Court to undertake a legal review of the boycott, requesting that it be “quashed.”
It cites evidence from one Jewish resident who said that he “no longer felt part of the greater community in Leicester.”
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Neumann said: “Last November Leicester City Council was the latest in a series of councils to throw their lot in with that movement by issuing an anti-Semitic motion to boycott Jews.
“When the Nazis first came to power in 1930s Germany, one of the very first measures they implemented were boycotts of Jews. It is incredible that a mere 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, and of Bergen-Belsen by the British, that there should be calls in Europe and the United Kingdom that there should be calls to boycott Jews once again.
“We call upon the court to side with human decency, to protect vulnerable minorities, and above all, to uphold the law.”
Commenting on the motion by Cllr Dawood, Leicester’s city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, who accompanied his Labour colleague on a trip to the West Bank in September said “It is right that we examine our order books and our consciences.
“The situation in the West Bank is not unlike that of Apartheid in South Africa and nobody would argue we were not right to condemn that as an authority.”
Councillor Dawood argued that the motion is not anti-Semitic, as it is aimed at Israel, not Jews. “The motion is in support of Palestine and is aimed at the state of Israel and not the Jewish people who in many cases disagree with what their Government is doing to the Palestinians,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stephen Daisley, STV’s digital political correspondent has called out the left’s tactic of attacking Israel in lieu of attacking Jews.
“What if we substituted “Zionist” for “Jew”, what would happen then?” he has asked. “How many would object to “Zionists” being termed enemies of the human race? How many would be glad to see the “Zionist” become impossible? Anti-Zionism has removed much of the need for classical anti-Semitism by recycling the old superstitions as a political critique of the State of Israel.
“Every pathology of the anti-Semite can be visited upon the Jewish state in the flimsy guise of “anti-imperialism” or “human rights”. It’s all okay because it’s “Zionism” you’re against and that’s not the same thing as Jews and what about Jews who are anti-Zionist.
“The hallmark of a bigot is seizing on dissonant voices within a minority community and using them to delegitimise the mainstream of that community. The exception becomes the rule and those whose only connection to Jewish communal life is signing onto letters to the Guardian denouncing Israel become more Jewish than everyone else.”