Reaction to Labour Party NEC’s G4S decision

Commenting on reports that the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee has voted to cancel G4S’s contract to provide security services for Labour’s annual conference, a spokesman for Fair Play, the joint anti-boycott initiative of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, said:

“The Labour NEC has decided to boycott G4S for providing the metal detectors and security guards that protect Israeli civillians from terror attacks. The NEC vote calls into question Labour’s commitment to security and conflicts with the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn’s strong statements opposing the de-legitimisation of Israel. So what is Labour’s policy now? This decision is pointless gesture politics and we urge Labour’s General Secretary to ensure G4S is treated fairly and that this boycott is reversed.”

West Dunbartonshire’s pointless, failed boycott

West Dunbartonshire has one of the UK’s most high-profile Israel boycott policies — but what does it mean in practice?

West Dunbartonshire Council is one of Britain’s smallest Local Authorities, located just west of Glasgow in Scotland.

Starting in 2009, councillor Jim Bollan began to push for West Dunbartonshire Council to boycott Israel. The council first voted to boycott all Israeli products in January 2009, and then reaffirmed this decision in June 2010, voting to promote their boycott policy to all other councils in Scotland.

The Council really hit the headlines in 2011, when the Daily Express reported that the Council’s policy even extended to Israeli books.

At the time, the Fair Play campaign said “Banning access to knowledge for political reasons is nothing short of censorship. West Dunbartonshire must reverse this policy or their libraries will become an international laughing stock.”

West Dunbartonshire Council sought to defend itself by saying “Our boycott does not in any way seek to censor or silence authors and commentators from Israel… This boycott would only ever apply to books printed in Israel”. However, many books about Judaism and Israeli culture are only printed by Israeli publishers, effectively banning those books.

The story quickly travelled around the world and led to an organised counter-boycott of scotch whisky by some Jewish groups in the USA, forcing the UK Government to distance itself from the policy and to the whisky companies themselves complaining to the council.

Ultimately though, despite all the energy and reputational damage to the council, a boycott was never really implemented at all.

That become clear this week as West Dunbartonshire Council prepares to reapprove G4S as its cash-collection company.

G4S is a major target of the anti-Israel boycott campaign, especially at local authority level. Campaigns like StopG4S target every contract renewal, demanding that G4S be boycotted because of its small role in keeping Israelis safe by selling security cameras and metal detectors. Even though G4S decided not to renew its contracts with the Israeli police, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has still made boycotting G4S a key priority for several years.

They have met with almost no success, for a simple reason: councils cannot boycott companies for political reasons. It’s illegal.

And so, despite theoretically boycotting Israel, West Dunbartonshire is about to re-sign its contract with perhaps the biggest boycott target in the UK, all of which proves the total pointlessness the campaign to get councils to adopt boycott resolutions. It’s divisive and frequently nasty but it achieves nothing.

Southampton conference roundup

The planned anti-Israel conference at the University of Southampton continues to generate controversy.

The conference, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism“, is organised by Prof. Oren ben-Dor, an Israeli academic known as a campaigner for a One-State Solution and a supporter of  an academic boycott of Israel.

The three-day conference in April does not pretend to be neutral. The official event description says it

…concerns the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish state of Israel. Rather than focusing on Israeli actions in the 1967 Occupied Territories, the conference will focus on exploring themes of Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism; all of which are posed by Israel’s very nature.

According to our own research, 45 of the 56 speakers – 80% – have a record of anti-Israel activism such as supporting boycotts, opposing Israel’s existence, justifying terror or writing for campaigning publications like Electronic Intifada. By comparison, only 3 speakers have any record of supporting and only 8 speakers no obvious campaigning background at all! This is not a conference of impartial experts or neutral academics discussing their research. It is a political conference of political campaigners involved in fringe anti-Israel causes.

Only one speaker is an academic from an Israeli university — Dr Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, an Israeli Arab academic at Hebrew University. Many of the other speakers, including conference organiser Prof. ben-Dor, support a full boycott of Israeli universities. Surely they wouldn’t apply that policy to only Jewish Israeli academics?


Many people have voiced their concerns about the bias of the conference:

The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies have both raised objections with the University’s Vice Chancellor.

A petition organised by the Zionist Federation calling for the conference to be cancelled now has 5000 signatures, leading to coverage in the Sunday Times

Lawyer Mark Lewis’s comments about the credibility of Southampton’s Law department  were covered in the Telegraph. He said

“This is a one-sided conference, not a debate and I would want to raise serious questions about what students at this university are being taught and what the university believes.

“If Southampton allows teaching which does not present both sides of a case it would raise doubts in my mind about the suitability of a candidate from its School of Law. I would not look so favourably on those CVs.”

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government told the Jewish News last week that

“There is a careful line between legitimate academic debate on international law and the actions of governments, and the far-left’s bashing of Israel which often descends into naked anti-Semitism.

“Given the taxpayer-funded University has a legal duty to uphold freedom of speech, I would hope that they are taking steps to give a platform to all sides of the debate, rather than allowing a one-sided diatribe”

The bias of the conference has also been condemned by local MPs.

We will update if there are any further developments.

Glasgow shop worker attacked with irritant chemical

We were shocked that a young stall-worker had an irritant chemical dropped on her head in a Glasgow shopping centre, simply for working at a stall selling Israeli goods. While not dangerous, the incident was both painful and frightening, and is the latest of a series of incidents of violence, intimidation and harassment against shop workers around the UK. We welcome the police’s decision to consider it a racist attack.

This August, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign called for “freelance harassment by passers-by, groups of friends” against Kedem and similar stalls in order to “drive them all out”.


Please see an except of the media coverage below.

Coverage from today’s Scottish Sun

Michael Gove calls the boycott of Israeli goods a sign of ‘resurgent antisemitism’

From the Guardian

Protesters who are boycotting Israeli goods over Gaza need to be reminded that the Nazi campaign against Jewish goods ended with a campaign against Jewish lives, senior Tory Michael Gove has said….

The Tricycle theatre attempts to turn away donations which support the Jewish Film Festival because the money is Israeli and therefore tainted. In our supermarkets our citizens mount boycotts of Israeli produce, some going so far as to ransack the shelves, scatter goods and render them unsaleable. In some supermarkets the conflation of anti-Israeli agitation and straightforward antisemitism has resulted in kosher goods being withdrawn.

“We need to speak out against this prejudice. We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past ended with a campaign against Jewish lives. We need to spell out that this sort of prejudice starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. We need to stand united against hate. Now more than ever.