JLC chair Black reiterates support for government’s ‘vital’ BDS bill ahead of vote

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JLC chair Black reiterates support for government’s ‘vital’ BDS bill ahead of vote

We Believe In Israel campaign group director Luke Akehurst writes to all MPs warning 'BDS demonises and delegitimises Israel'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Keith Black speaks to guests at JLC members tea in Westminster, with deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden
Keith Black speaks to guests at JLC members tea in Westminster, with deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden

Jewish Leadership Council chair Keith Black has reiterated his support for a “vital”government bill which he says will “put an end to the long running abuse of our public bodies by the pernicious boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.”

In a letter sent to secretary of state Michael Gove ahead of Monday’s second reading of the Economic Activity and Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, Black said that for BDS activists “there is only one state so uniquely evil in this world that it must be singled out for such special treatment and ostracised in every arena possible. The one Jewish state. Israel.”

The JLC chief added that BDS does “serious damage to community cohesion” and “undermines pre-existing relationships with local Jewish communities.”

He claimed the bill would, during times of conflict in the middle east, help focus efforts “to improve community cohesion.”

In his role as director of the grassroots We Believe In Israel campaign group, Luke Akehurst also wrote to all MPs in advance of Monday’s debate urging them to support the bill.

“We are against BDS more widely, because it deepens the divisions in the Middle East conflict rather than encouraging dialogue and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians,” wrote Akehurst.

“BDS demonises and delegitimises Israel by reusing a tactic made famous in the superb global campaign to rid South Africa of its racist apartheid regime to imply, completely falsely, that Israel is morally comparable to apartheid.”

He added:”We are specifically concerned about councils engaging in BDS because it cuts straight across their duty to promote community cohesion. 

“Taking sides in a divisive foreign policy issue risks importing that conflict into our town halls and potentially onto our streets, to the detriment of good relationships between communities in the UK.

“Local Jewish communities, most of the members of which will feel deep connections to Israel, will view their council boycotting or divesting from companies associated with Israel as an attack on their values as a community.

“It puts people who care about Israel in an invidious position if the council they rely on for education, social services, parks and waste management is taking a very public stance against a country they love.”

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