Labour’s new Justice Secretary was accused of encouraging ‘mob rule’ at pro-BDS protest

Shabana Mahmood has a history of going to anti-Israel marches but has also been applauded for fighting antisemitism


Labour's new Justice Secretary, Shabana Mahmood, at an anti-Israel protest in 2014 (Photo: X)

The UK’s new Secretary of State for Justice has a history of supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and attending anti-Israel marches.

Secretary of State for Justice Shabana Mahmood was accused of encouraging “mob rule” when she forced a supermarket to close in 2014 after a protest over the claim it was “stocking goods from illegal settlements”.

The branch of Sainsbury’s in Birmingham was forced to close for several hours, the MP claimed, before she took to YouTube to call for a boycott of Israeli goods.

She told a rally the week after the Sainsbury’s protest: “I was with 200 activists outside Sainsbury’s in the centre of Birmingham.

“We lay down in the street and we laid down inside Sainsbury’s to say we object to them stocking goods from illegal settlements – and that they must stop. We managed to close down that store at peak time on a Saturday. This is how we can make a difference.”

Mahmood was slammed by Jewish leaders at the time, including the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council.

Simon Johnson, then chief executive of JLC, said: “It is completely inappropriate for a Member of Parliament to promote public disorder that forced a supermarket to close.” Vivian Wineman, then president of the BoD, added: “Such rabble rousing is extremely irresponsible.”

Mike Freer, then MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said at the time: "For any Parliamentarian to encourage mob rule as a way of protesting is shameful. Will synagogues and kosher shops be next on her list of targets?”

Since her controversial Sainsbury’s protest a decade ago, Mahmood has continued to back the Palestinian cause, including attending protests organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

However, she has stood by the Labour leadership’s position on Gaza since October 7, often at great risk to her voter base.
In a letter to her Birmingham Ladywood constituents dated October 13, she denounced the Hamas attack: “I unequivocally condemn the despicable actions of Hamas, who targeted innocent Israeli civilians. The hostages must be returned.

“These atrocities were committed by terrorists who do not seek peace and have set back the just cause of Palestinian freedom and statehood, which I have supported my whole life.”

She insisted that "international humanitarian laws" must be followed "at all times."

In March this year, she called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and accused Israel of killing innocent civilians.

"I have always supported a diplomatic process to stop the killing of innocent civilians, get humanitarian aid in and get the hostages out," Mahmoud wrote in a March letter to constituents.

"But it is clear that diplomatic processes have not made sufficient progress. The conduct of this war has been intolerable, with a disproportionate level of attacks on innocent people that has rightly been the deliberations in international courts."

Mahmood also said that during the campaign she had been “harassed and intimidated” for standing for Labour, seen by a section of the Muslim community of being insufficiently pro-Palestinian.

The chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Mike Katz, criticised the resurfacing of Mahmood’s decade old history of protest and said that the new Justice Secretary “understands antisemitism and has taken action against it. She's shown enormous strength and resilience in the face of serious and personal attacks since October 7 simply because she is a senior Muslim Labour woman.”

Meanwhile, the director of Antisemitism Policy Trust, Danny Stone MBE, tweeted that Mahmood “has been kind, thoughtful, and supportive in all of my dealings with her, including on serious issues of conspiratorial antisemitism. She has been relentlessly abused and deserves some kindness.” He added that she has “taken direct action against antisemitism.”

Mahmood’s appointment to head up UK prisons, probation and Crown Dependencies comes as the government appoints a new Attorney General who opposed legislation designed to combat BDS.

Richard Hermer KC was named by the Prime Minster as the chief legal adviser to the Crown.

Hermer, a member of Alyth Synagogue, opposed the previous Tory government’s anti-BDS legislation in 2023.

The PM bypassed his previous shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, to appoint Hermer in a surprise move that saw the lawyer elevated to the House of Lords to serve in government.

When former minister Michael Gove attempted to prevent anti-Israel boycotts with legislation last summer, Hermer warned that the bill would have a “profoundly detrimental” impact on the UK’s ability to promote human rights abroad and would “stifle free speech at home”.

Hermer’s advice was echoed by some Tories at the time, including Alicia Kearns, and was backed by the chair of Leeds Jewish Representative Council, KC Simon Myerson.

In a statement to the JC last year, Hermer said he came from a “Blue-Box Jewish family” and "actively supports a range of Jewish and Israeli organisations.”

He added, “I have dear family members currently serving in the IDF. I also happen to believe (again completely unconnected to my professional analysis on the Bill) that the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank is unlawful, deeply damaging to the interests of Israel and wholly contrary to the values of tikkun olam that I grew up with and continue to guide me."

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