A member of Labour’s shadow cabinet has attempted to clarify her position on boycotts of Israel, after concerns were expressed over her apparent support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Kate Osamor MP, the Shadow International Development Secretary, had tweeted a message which was part of a thread backing sanctions against Israel last week, adding: “BDS movement #freedom #justice #equality.”
However, replying to a letter from Joan Ryan MP, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) chair, Ms Osamor said: “Neither Emily [Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary], myself nor the Labour Party as a whole supports a blanket BDS policy against Israel.
“We continue to support a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on an end to the occupation and a two-state solution.”
Ms Ryan had written to Ms Osamor pointing out that last month Ms Thornberry had criticised “a boycott of its [Israel’s] products, its culture or its academics, or a denial of its right to defend itself from military assault and terror attacks.
“That sort of bigotry against the Israeli nation has never been justified and it never will be.”
However, in her response to Ms Ryan, Ms Osamor said that “as Emily said in the speech from which you quoted, anyone whose opposition to the policies or actions of the Israeli government leads them to hatred or prejudice against an entire nation or people, or lead them to support particular policies because of that hatred, is wrong.
“However, as Emily made clear, it is perfectly possible to hold that view while strongly opposing the 50-year Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the building and expansion of illegal settlements on occupied territory – or indeed while supporting the labelling of products from those settlements, so that consumers have the option not to buy them, a choice which many, including Emily and myself, would personally choose to make.”
Ms Osamor also said Ms Thornberry had discussed the matter with her, and “she agrees with everything I have said above”.
An LFI spokesperson said: “However it sometimes dresses it up, the BDS movement’s goal is a total boycott of the world’s only Jewish state.
“Labour cannot oppose a ‘blanket’ boycott of Israel and support the BDS movement, as Kate Osamor appears to think it can, and her letter directly contradicts statements previously made by both Tom Watson and Emily Thornberry.”