Jamie Hailstone 29 June 2016

Councils win Israel boycott case

The High Court has dismissed claims of anti-semitism against three local authorities following a boycott of goods produced in Israel.

The judges ruled in favour of Swansea City Council, Gwynedd CC and Leicester City Council and rejected claims by Jewish Human Rights Watch that the boycotts were discriminatory.

All three local authorities had passed motions to boycott any goods from the West Bank until Israel withdrew from Palestinian occupied territories.

The Jewish Human Rights Watch group claimed the local authorities failed to have any regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty and procurement rules.

But Lord Justice Simon said the council resolutions ‘did not override, or even affect, the lawful exercise of its public functions in relation to public supply or works contracts’.

‘The judgement confirms that councillors have the right to shine a spotlight on a legitimate area of public debate and to discuss issues that are of concern to their electorate,’ said Leicester City Council’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby.

Responding to the news, War On Want’s senior campaigner on militarism and security, Ryvka Barnard, said: ‘Attempts to stifle grassroots solidarity with Palestinians will not work.

‘We are confident that this ruling will give confidence to more councils to stand up for justice.

‘Local councils were instrumental in the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1980s, standing in solidarity with South Africans by resolving not to invest in or procure from companies supporting Apartheid.

'Now some of the same councils are taking action again, this time to end local government complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights,’ she added.

Read our feature exploring Whitehall's attempt to ban procurement boycotts.

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