Kosher food being ‘targeted by racists’, says Government’s antisemitism adviser

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Kosher food being ‘targeted by racists’, says Government’s antisemitism adviser

Former Labour MP Lord Mann says actions that remove the ability of Jewish people to access kosher food is attacking a 'fundamental freedom'

Screenshot, Facebook, Tesco, Liverpool, February 2024
Screenshot, Facebook, Tesco, Liverpool, February 2024

Kosher food is being “targeted by racists” and removed from stores, according to the Government’s antisemitism adviser.

Non-affiliated peer Lord Mann criticised the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a Palestinian-led movement that promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The former Labour MP said that, while not buying a product from Israel is a personal choice, actions that remove the ability of Jewish people to access kosher food is attacking a “fundamental freedom”.

He said: “If one decides not to buy Jaffa oranges because one doesn’t like Israel or the Israeli government, then that’s a choice one is free to make and should be free to make.

Kosher food.

“If one stops a shop, say, in a university or in a local authority from stocking Jaffa oranges, then that means that people who wish to buy them can’t do so.

“And it’s particularly invidious when a religion – and there are several religions – have specific dietary rules and laws.

“So in the case of Judaism, kosher food, to specifically isolate the ability of individuals who choose to follow the religion’s norms and rules in terms of diet to ban the right of them to do so – it’s much more invidious because what it’s doing is impacting one’s way of life and therefore the principle is far greater…

“And what we’re seeing with this so-called BDS campaign, what we’re seeing increasingly is Jewish kosher foods, which may be Israeli or may not be, being specially targeted, whether it’s in supermarkets, whether it’s in Jewish-owned stores, being specifically targeted by racists and inhibiting the rights of those who choose to be kosher-adherent to be so.”

Lord John Mann (Credit: Roger Harris – Parliament official portrait – Wikimedia Commons)

His comments came as peers started their line-by-line scrutiny of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, which bans public bodies from taking unilateral action, such as boycotts, against countries.

The legislation allows the Government to exempt certain countries and it is intended that Russia and Belarus will be exempt immediately.

However, special protections have been granted to Israel, due to BDS targeting, meaning that the Bill does not allow ministers to make regulations to exempt Israel, the Palestinian territories, or the Golan Heights.

Lord Mann argued that the Bill should ensure that public bodies do not prevent the provision of foods prepared in line with religious practices, such as kosher or halal foods.

He argued that this would have a “powerful impact” because “it’s affecting the way of life”.

The peer concluded that all people should have the freedom to “be themselves in what they choose to eat” and that this is “fundamental to the concept of individual and collective rights and what we are in this country”.

Responding, Cabinet Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “The ban established by the Bill applies to all procurement decisions including the procurement of food where this is part of a public function.

“Therefore, if a public authority made a decision not to procure kosher food and that decision was influenced by moral or political disapproval of the state of Israel, the Bill would already prohibit this.

“However, I would like to reassure members that nothing in this Bill will stop a public authority from providing food that accommodates the religious beliefs of its employees or its service users.

“For example, the Bill would not stop a public authority specifying in a tender that it is procuring halal products.”

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