The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) has denounced the British Labour party as “divisive” following calls by the shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, on the UK to ban the import of goods from illegal settlements in the West Bank if the Israeli government presses ahead with annexation plans.
Nandy warned there would be consequences for Israel in an interview with the Observer on Saturday. “The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East,” said the Wigan MP.
“It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness. Across the world concern is growing … So far the UK government has been conspicuously absent from this global response,” explained Nandy adding that the move would be a “major step” and require “courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show”. But “such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences.”
Nandy’s comments were met with condemnation from the BoD. According to the Jewish Chronicle, the President of the right-wing anti-Palestinian organisation, Marie van der Zyl, has pledged to write to Labour leader Keir Starmer urging him not to take the “divisive” route of sanctions.
Though Nandy never mentioned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement during her interview, Marie van der Zyl condemned the shadow foreign secretary saying: “The tactic of BDS is divisive and seeks to strike at the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish State.”
While Marie van der Zyl stopped short of accusing Nandy of being an anti-Semite, the call for sanctions on Israel, described by pro-Israel groups as an attack on Israel’s legitimacy and therefore anti-Semitic, has become a common tactic of Zionist groups in their attempt to silence critics of the occupying state.
Last week, Starmer sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey for sharing an article highlighting Israel’s training of the US police force. The shadow education secretary was accused of peddling an anti-Semitic trope and came under sharp criticism from the BoD. Following her dismissal, Starmer repeated the pledge he had made to the BoD following his appointment as Labour leader, insisting that he had made the fight against anti-Semitism his number one priority.
Israel’s planned annexation of the occupied West Bank has threatened to divide the BoD. In May, Van der Zyl reportedly rejected calls to criticise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly. “There isn’t going to be a consensus that is going to be reached and I am very concerned that the Jewish community stays together as a community at what is clearly a divisive time,” she said.
The leader of the Board argued that British Jews are “in the main Zionist” and that their interests “overlap” with the interests of the Israeli government, which is considered the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, containing members that openly deny the right of Palestinians to self-determination and insist on the complete takeover of historic Palestine.