Scottish council's Israel boycott ‘biased and offensive’

Supporters of Israel have challenged the legality of a boycott of the country imposed by a Scottish council.

Clackmannanshire Council has not said whether its decision to “resist all economic and political support for Israel” will result in the refusal to hire Israelis, or a ban on pro-Israel public demonstrations taking place in the area.

The boycott was implemented by 11 councillors earlier this month after lobbying by anti-Israel activists from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The JC understands that Jeremy Newmark and Jon Benjamin, the chief executives of the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies, told the authority that the policy was “offensive, biased and objectionable on many counts, and grossly misrepresents the situation in the region, demonising Israel”.

Mick Davis, chair of the JLC trustees, said Clackmannanshire’s policy “represents a deterioration” in the fightback against anti-Israel boycotts.

But he added: “The idea of a small local council like Clackmannanshire running its own foreign policy is laughable. However, the support for the motion from mainstream Labour councillors crosses the party’s own red lines and I have no doubt that they will take this up with their local representatives.”

The Fair Play Campaign Group, which opposes boycotts, has written to council chief executive Elaine McPherson questioning the legal steps taken by the authority before the policy was adopted.

FPCG has asked Ms McPherson to explain how the measures will be implemented, and whether they will amount to a refusal to work with Israeli citizens and businesses.

It demanded that Clackmannanshire explain a series of possible effects, including whether the council would refuse to buy Israeli products, whether the authority’s officers would be obliged to attend or organise counter-demonstrations against pro-Israel events, and whether the council would send anti-Israel material to residents to encourage “individual sanctions”, as outlined in the policy.

The letter states: “It is the open-endedness and breadth of the motion that is especially troubling, as it appears to place a general duty on the council in all its functions to find ways to oppose both Israel and its supporters.”

A council spokesman claimed a boycott was not being implemented, but said that the authority had “agreed to resist, insofar as legislative considerations permit, any action that provides political or economic support to the state of Israel”.

Independent councillor Archie Drummond, who proposed the motion, and Scottish National Party council leader Gary Womersley, have both refused to comment.

Last updated: 8:45pm, March 28 2013