PRO-PALESTINIAN campaigners hit back yesterday after three local authorities were taken to the High Court for boycotting the products of illegal Israeli settlements.
Leicester City, Swansea City and Gwynedd councils were accused by Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW) of anti-semitism for refusing to procure goods and services from the occupied West Bank.
But campaigners said the councils were following government and international guidelines when refusing to comply with human rights abuses in Palestine.
“It’s shameful that local councils are being attacked for ensuring their policies are in line with international and UK law,” said War on Want senior militarism and security campaigner Ryvka Barnard.
“The UK government has reiterated over and over again that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal and has issued advice to businesses on the risks of investing in or trading with illegal settlements.
“Local councils voting to distance themselves from illegal and human rights abusing settlements should not be standing trial over their decision to act responsibly and morally.
“These sham charges undermine the rights of local authorities to act in respect of human rights and to reflect the values of the people who elected them.”
Appearing before the court today, JHRW pleaded with Lord Justice Simon and Mr Justice Flaux to rule the boycotts in breach of the Local Government Act 1988 and the Equality Act 2010 and thereby unlawful.
On behalf of the JHRW, counsel Robert Palmer said that the councils had not taken into account “the impact of their actions on the Jewish community.”
While Swansea council declined to comment, both Leicester and Gwynedd representatives said the boycotts “condemned the Israeli state and not the Jewish religion.”
In February, the government announced it would be issuing new guidance to public authorities on “inappropriate” town hall boycotts.
According to the Cabinet Office, actions such as those of Swansea, Leicester and Gwynedd councils “undermine good community relations, poison and polarise debate, weaken integration and fuel anti-semitism.”
The guidance was labelled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “an attack on local democracy.”