BDS activists (file)
BDS activists (file)Wikimedia Commons

The Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW), an anti-BDS organization in England, has for the past year since its inception been successfully fighting and countering anti-Semitism in the UK. The organization’s current primary focus is to fight the BDS movement in the UK, primarily at the level of city and local councils. The JHRW believes that such boycotts adversely impact the local Jewish community in England, even perhaps more than they impact Israel.  

“We see that when there are any flare ups in Israel, Jews in England are targeted,” said JHRW spokesperson Jonathan Neumann during an interview with Arutz Sheva. “On university campuses, Jews feel intimidated to go to lectures and classes, and that isn’t right.”

A number of local councils in England, over the past few years, have chosen to boycott Israel. These include the city of Leicester, the local councils of West Dunbartonshire, Highland, Newry & Mourne, Stirling and Clackmannanshire, and two councils in Wales, Gwynedd County Council and Swansea City Council. Due to the recent legal activities initiated by the JHRW, the two Welsh councils issued a statement which overturned the BDS policy. According to JHRW both councils have formally stated that not only were the BDS motions that were accepted by the councils non-binding, but that they have had no practical effect and have been entirely superseded.

“We follow a procedure called judicial review in which we challenge the decisions passed by public bodies. Leicester city council had passed a boycott against Israel, and we challenged it. We just recently received a ruling from the judge that the case will see an official hearing and that came as a surprise to the city council,” said Neumann.  

“The truth is on our side, and if any council local or city passes rulings or legislation that are anti-Semitic, we will be there to challenge them and make sure that they see the danger that is posed to their own local community by taking such action,” Neumann declared.

There have always been excuses and pretexts to legitimate these types of boycotts against Jews. But this time, the JHRW is not taking the boycotts sitting down. “We will stand up and fight back and we are going to utilize any legal tools available to us to do so.”

When asked what advice Neumann would give to other groups in other countries based upon the success that the JHRW has had recently, Neumann said that there is one main issue.

“The key is education to make the public aware of how dangerous these boycotts are. We need to bring out the real adversaries and shame them for their anti-Semitic actions. People need to be very clear and forthright that there is never any excuse for boycotting Jews. We’ve seen it too many times and seen where it leads.”

Regarding those who issue the boycotts, Neumann said that they may not all be doing it out of ill-faith, but it may be a lack of understanding and education. “Once people are made aware of the effects that these boycotts may have, then they will see how dangerous they are and they will be prepared to pull back. Those who aren’t willing to pull back, we can focus on them as the real adversaries, and we can counter them and shame them for what they are doing.”

“There are some people out there who truly wish to do ill to the Jewish community. But many others are simply convinced to go ahead with boycotts because they do not know or spend too much time thinking about the accusations. People need to educate themselves either with tools that we have on our website, or other places, before they give their support to a policy that can affect an ethnic minority.”

The JHRW is continuing their legal campaign against Leicester city council, and will be soon turning their attention to Scotland and Ireland in an effort to get those councils to repeal their policies. Additionally, the group has logged a complaint with the Charity Commission in England against War on Want -- a charity which has been vociferous in its antagonism towards Israel, and one of the biggest proponents of the BDS movement in England. “We hope to see serious internal reform in that charity,” said Neumann. “They are supposed to be an apolitical charity, and yet they persist in this ugly campaigning.”

Neumann relayed very proudly that as a result of the efforts of JHRW against local councils and our conversations with the government of England, the government announced that they will be banning all local councils from adopting BDS policy. “This is similar in weight to having the US government ban states from associating with any entity that supports BDS,” he explained.

“There are people on every side of this battle. But I want to reaffirm that this issue affects Jews living right where people are. Whether it is in the UK or Europe or North America, these ideas have a direct impact on their Jewish neighbors, and all government bodies need to be mindful of adopting such policies.”