Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour party, said Wednesday he does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, but does back targeted action against Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
Corbyn’s spokesman clarified the Labour leader’s position after a cabinet split emerged over the issue when Kate Osamor, the shadow development secretary, publicly backed BDS, according to a report in The Guardian.
A tweet from Osamor this week said BDS “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians”. The statement provoked a row with the Labour Friends of Israel group.
Asked about the dispute, Corbyn’s spokesman said supporting BDS was not Labour party policy but argued Osamor should not be disciplined over the matter.
“Jeremy is not in favour of a comprehensive or blanket boycott,” he stressed, according to The Guardian. “He doesn’t support BDS. He does support targeted action aimed at illegal settlements and occupied territories.”
Asked if Corbyn would be happy to buy Israeli goods himself, the spokesman replied, “Yes.”
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, said last week that the party did not support boycotts of Israeli products.
Praising the Israeli Labor party, she said, “Theirs is a positive vision of how a Labor-led government can build a more peaceful, more prosperous and more progressive future both for Israel and its neighbors.”
“A constant rejoinder to all those who somehow believe that opposition to the policies of an individual Israeli government can ever justify a hatred of the nation and its people, or a boycott of its 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,” added Thornberry.
Following Osamor’s statement, Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, asked the shadow development secretary for clarity.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
The Labour party has come under criticism in recent years over anti-Semitic and anti-Israel expressions by its members.
Corbyn has been criticized in the past due to his calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for outright refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.
Last year, however, the Labour leader said that he regretted making those comments.
Corbyn has also been accused of doing too little to curb rampant anti-Semitism among members and lawmakers from his party. In recent years, dozens of Labour members have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements.
Among those suspended from the party is former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was suspended after claiming that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler supported Zionism.