Challenge to Lancaster’s BDS move

 Lawyers say Jewish groups should have been consulted before council urged county's pension fund to stop investing in Israeli companies


Lancaster City Council clock

UK Lawyers for Israel have challenged a move by Lancaster City Council to support a boycott of Israel and persuade  Lancashire County Council’s pension fund to divest £8 million from Israeli companies.

At a meeting last month, the local authority voted in favour of a motion to write to the county council’s pension fund “urging that they adopt policies requiring them to divest from all companies active in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine and all arms companies which supply weapons to Israel”. They also voted to support the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement.

UKLFI have challenged the motion on the grounds that Lancaster Council failed to comply with its legal duty to have “due regard for community relations”.

The lawyers’ group allege that the local authority did not consult either the Lancaster Jewish community or Lancaster University’s Jewish Society prior to debating the anti-Israel motion at a full council meeting last month.

During the meeting, the proposer of the motion, Eco-Socialist Independent councillor Jack O'Dwyer-Henry, referred to work done by the university’s Friends of Palestine Society.

However, the councillor did not consult Lancaster J-Soc on the motion, despite representing the ward where the university is located.

Noah Katz, president of Lancaster University Jewish Society, said: “My mission as J-Soc president is to ensure that all Jewish students of Lancaster University are able to live their lives on campus to learn safely, in the same way as all of our peers, free from fear of anti-Jewish racism.

“We must all strive towards a future of unity, not division. I hope that Lancaster City Council sees the error of their ways and that the university ward councillor does better to represent all minority groups in his constituency.”

UKLFI has written to Kieran Keane, chief executive of the council, arguing the authority “manifestly failed to comply with the public sector equality duty in relation to its BDS motion”.

The organisation has also written to the county’s  Pension Fund and Local Pensions Partnership stating that demands to divest from Israeli companies do not accord with the fund’s responsible investment policy.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI commented: “Boycotts of Jews have historically been precursors of their dehumanisation and persecution. Substantial research at US universities has found that the amount of BDS activity is the best predictor of actions that directly target Jewish students for harm. It is irresponsible to ignore this linkage.”



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