By James Moules
SHADOW Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy reiterated her opposition to a blanket policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the State of Israel as a whole following criticism of her calls for a ban on goods coming out of occupied territory in the West Bank.
Late last month, Ms Nandy called for a ban on goods imports from illegal West Bank settlements if the Israeli government proceeds with plans to annex a substantial portion of the territory.
But the Board of Deputies of British Jews criticised Nandy’s comments as “divisive” and urged Labour leader Keir Starmer to reject the calls.
Speaking at an online event with Labour Tribune MPs, the Wigan MP clarified her position on the matter.
She did not back down from her stance on the annexation, saying: “This is a question of applying international law, because these are occupied Palestinian territories.”
She added: “If you look across the world, there is very strong opposition to this, including across the Jewish communities across the globe.”
But Ms Nandy fully acknowledged the concerns of the Board of Deputies, saying: “The Board of Deputies felt it would divide people. I’ve had that conversation with them. I’ve had very constructive meetings with them since I took on the post.
“The major concern that they raised was that this shouldn’t morph into a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel itself.”
Ms Nandy, who was the chair of Labour Friends of Palestine before assuming the Shadow Foreign Secretary portfolio, emphasised that she viewed a policy of BDS against the State of Israel itself to be “really problematic” and personally rejected the idea.
She stressed the importance of not pursuing a course of action that would undermine Israel’s right to exist.
The Board of Deputies was contacted for comment.
The annexation plans put forward by Netanyahu’s government would see vast swathes of the occupied territories in the West Bank brought under the sovereignty of Israel – including the Jordan Valley, which is the region’s border with Jordan.
The proposed move has been widely condemned around the world, with many saying it could represent a death knell for the Israel-Palestine peace process.
The West Bank has been under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967 – since which numerous Israeli settlements have been constructed in the region.
These settlements are overwhelmingly considered to be illegal under international law.
However, Ms Nandy added that the outcome of the US Presidential election in November could affect the situation.
She said: “I think if Biden wins, that could be a game changer, but if Trump wins I am really fearful about what that means. And this will destabilise the whole region, so Britain has a responsibility to step up and act.”
During his tenure as US President, Trump has taken steps to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – making it one of the few nations to do so – and has recognised the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
During the Tribune MPs event, Ms Nandy also discussed the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and compared the responses of various nations to the crisis.
She pointed to the subject when asked about the prospect of pursuing a feminist foreign policy, saying: “I think it’s been really striking during the Covid crisis how countries led by women seem to have had really dramatic results in terms of making decision about lockdown early, about bringing people in the country with them, about being able to build a sense of team and collective responsibility and ownership for getting through Covid.”
Nandy cited New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as an example, calling the country’s response “long term, strategic, thoughtful and brave.”
She added: “It’s largely been those very strong-man, populist leaders that have led the sort of vaccine nationalism that we’ve seen that is really hindering efforts to try to work together to find the vaccine, distribute it and actually help us to defeat this thing.”
The topic of the ongoing surge in Black Lives Matter protests also came up.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer recently came under fire for referring to Black Lives Matter as a “moment” – a remark for which he has since expressed “regret”.
But Nandy defended her leader, saying: “I understood what he was saying, what was that we’ve got to make sure that we take this moment in time and make it the moment where things start to change.
“I’m half Indian. I grew up in a neighbourhood in Manchester very close to Moss Side. I don’t remember the Moss Side riots, but I certainly remember a lot of the aftermath and police brutality.
“Young black men in particular in the area where I grew up, systematically shut out of opportunities, very high rates of unemployment and a government that wasn’t just not interested but was actively working against them.”
On the subject of UK foreign policy, she added: “There’s a complex history for Britain because of our colonial past, and that’s something that has started to become part of debate here in the UK with the Black Lives Matter’s protests.
“I really welcome that. I think we do need to talk about it.”
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