Labour head Corbyn ‘doesn’t support BDS,’ but would boycott settlements

Spokesman forced to clarify UK politician’s position after shadow cabinet member tweets support for anti-Israeli movement

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech to supporters at a party rally in Glasgow, Scotland, May 28, 2017. (AFP/Andy Buchanan)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech to supporters at a party rally in Glasgow, Scotland, May 28, 2017. (AFP/Andy Buchanan)

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn clarified Wednesday that he does not back boycotts of Israel, after a member of his shadow cabinet tweeted support for the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“Jeremy is not in favor of a comprehensive or blanket boycott. He doesn’t support BDS,” a spokesman for Corbyn told the Guardian, adding that the politician would have no qualms with buying Israeli products himself.

However, the spokesman added, “He does support targeted action aimed at illegal settlements and occupied territories.”

Corbyn’s spokesman made the statement after Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor tweeted her support for BDS this week.

The BDS movement has been denounced by deputy party leader Tom Watson as “morally wrong.” Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has said blanket boycotts amount to “bigotry.”

British MP Kate Osamor (YouTube screenshot)

Following Osamor’s tweet, Labour Friends of Israel demanded clarifications from Labour leadership.

LFI chair Joan Ryan said in a statement: “The BDS movement is morally wrong. It seeks to demonize and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state and thus call into question its right to exist.

“BDS also does nothing to advance the cause of peace, reconciliation and coexistence. The BDS campaign undermines the work of those Israelis — including our sister party, the Israeli Labor Party — who are seeking to advance a two-state solution.”

Thornberry said in an interview with The Times of Israel in November that the current Israeli government “has lost its way.”

During a tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories, the British MP said: “We’re critical of the Israeli government. We’re very critical of the Israeli government. Jeremy would be extremely critical of the Israeli government. But guess what? A lot of Israelis are pretty critical of the Israeli government, too. This is part of being friends. We can tell each other the truth. We think the Israeli government has lost its way.”

While acknowledging that Israel is the Middle East’s only open-minded Western democracy, it is not a model for its neighbors, she said.

“I love the liberal democracy that is Israel. And it’s in contrast to many other countries around it. But it’s not perfect. And at least one of the reasons is the continued occupation of Palestine, and the misery of the Palestinians. And that is a daily problem that needs to be addressed.”

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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