Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith opposes BDS
Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, Sep 7 2016
The man who wants to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the UK Labour Party has come out against the BDS movement. Owen Smith instead advocated that Labour “build bridges” with Israel. He said on Tuesday:
I am not convinced that a boycott of goods from Israel would help. As friends of the people of Israel and Palestine, our most important task is to help foster cooperation and coexistence.
Smith’s statement came in a letter to Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East. Corbyn has gone on the record in support of the BDS movement, which aims to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights, many times. He is a leader of long standing in the PSC, which pushes for BDS. Last year, Corbyn told EI he supports a boycott of Israeli institutions complicit in violations of Palestinian rights. He said:
If it is a university that is doing research into drones, taser weapons, or doing research into surveillance of the occupation in Gaza and elsewhere then they should be part of the boycott.
Almost all Israeli universities are involved in such research. At a debate for the four leadership candidates organized by Labour Friends of Israel during last year’s election campaign, Corbyn advocated for “economic measures” to hold Israel accountable, even in front of a skeptical audience. Questioned about support for BDS, he outlined some of the ways Israel is in violation of international law and asked:
The Owen Smith campaign did not reply to a request for comment. Smith launched his leadership campaign in July, after an attempt by Labour MPs to oust Corbyn in a failed coup. The only opinion poll conducted in the two-way leadership election gave Corbyn a 24% lead over Smith last week. The call for BDS urges that the pressure continue until Israel abides by international law and universal human rights by ending its occupation of Palestinian land, respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees and granting full equality to Palestinians in Israel. The movement has become so effective that the Israeli government now has an entire department, the ministry of strategic affairs, and a $45m budget dedicated to what it calls a “war” against BDS. A veteran Israeli intelligence correspondent on Sunday reported that the anti-BDS ministry, working with Israeli spy agencies, may be conducting “black ops” or “special operations” including “defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists” as well as “infringing on and violating their privacy.