Ed Miliband: 'I'm a Zionist and oppose boycotts of Israel'

Ed Miliband told the Board of Deputies of his opposition to anti-Israel campaigns

Ed Miliband told the Board of Deputies of his opposition to anti-Israel campaigns

Ed Miliband has pledged to protect Jewish customs including brit milah and shechita if he becomes Prime Minister.

Speaking at a Board of Deputies event the Labour leader said he was opposed to boycotts of Israel and warned of the need to be “ever-vigilant”against antisemitism.

Asked whether he would work to ensure religious slaughter and circumcision practices could continue in Britain, Mr Miliband said: “Yes, these are important traditions. The kosher issue has recently been brought to my attention. Ways of life must be preserved.”

He added: “I take antisemitism very seriously. Any kind of delegitimisation of Israel is something we should call out for what it is and not tolerate it.

“I think the boycotts of Israel are totally wrong. We should have no tolerance for boycotts. I would say that to any trade union leaders.”

But Mr Miliband warned the audience that while he was opposed to anti-Israel activities in this country, people must “understand the anger and dismay about settlements”.

He said that he considered himself a Zionist but was critical of some Israeli government policies. Asked about Labour’s support for the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, Mr Miliband said he wanted to “encourage moderate” Palestinians and work in an “even-handed” way.

The politician made repeated reference to his support for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and said he hoped Britain could be an “honest broker” in the peace process.

Mr Miliband said former Labour MP George Galloway’s refusal to debate with a British-Israeli student at Oxford University last month was “shameful behaviour”.

“I was shocked by that. It’s one of a long line of things he has done and that’s the sort of behaviour we should not tolerate. The idea that he would refuse to debate him because he was Israeli is totally wrong and disgraceful.”

The leader of the opposition answered a range of questions on topics including immigration, education, housing, employment, the Israeli elections and American baseball.

Around 300 people attended the event in central London on Thursday evening.

Last updated: 11:57pm, March 7 2013