Sadiq Khan – 'Why I changed my mind about boycotts'

By Marcus Dysch, March 8, 2016

Labour’s London mayor candidate Sadiq Khan has explained why he switched from lobbying for sanctions against Israel to opposing boycotts of the country.

The JC revealed yesterday that Mr Khan had repeatedly called on ministers to impose sanctions in 2009, despite using his campaign for City Hall to claim he had consistently opposed such moves.

But the Tooting MP said today that after studying the evidence he now believed “we must not turn our face against Israel”.

And Mr Khan said he wanted to “send a message around the world” by being a Muslim mayor “who does more to protect Jewish Londoners from antisemitism than any mayor ever has before”.

On his opposition to boycotts, he said: “The evidence clearly shows that boycott, sanctions and divestment against Israel do not help us achieve peace – we must not turn our face against Israel.

“As the boycotts of Sodastream International showed, boycotts only hurt working people and do nothing to build a lasting peace in the region.”

A message sent by a Parliamentary aide to a meeting of the Stop the War Coalition in February 2009 outlined the lobbying carried out by Mr Khan.

The letter, sent around the time of Israel’s Cast Lead operation in Gaza, explained that the former minister had “regularly” been in contact with then Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Middle East Minister Bill Rammell, as well as Foreign Office officials.

Explaining those steps, Mr Khan said: “Like most people, I was deeply concerned by the Gaza War in 2008 and 2009. More than 1,000 people died – both Israeli and Palestinian –and there was a real risk that the conflict could have escalated even further.

“In 2008 I met with Foreign Office Ministers including David Miliband to urge them to do everything possible to get a commitment to an urgent ceasefire from both sides.

“I am committed to a peaceful two-state solution, and I do not believe that boycotts, sanctions and divestments will help us get there.”

Mr Khan repeated his claim from an interview with the JC last September in which he said he would not use City Hall as a “pulpit to talk about foreign affairs”.

“My job as mayor will be to make London better for all Londoners – including Jewish Londoners.”

Last updated: 10:00am, March 9 2016