Labour shadow minister Kate Osamor backs Israel boycott

Labour’s shadow development minister Kate Osamor has endorsed BDS. (ODI/Flickr)

Activists expressed support for the UK Labour Party’s shadow development minister Kate Osamor on Wednesday, after she tweeted approval of BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The movement aims to hold Israel to account for its violations of Palestinians rights.

Osamor over the weekend tweeted “BDS movement #Freedom #Justice #Equality” – the hashtags standing for the three demands of the Palestinian-led BDS movement.

“We welcome Kate Osamor’s statement of support for the employment of BDS towards Israel until it recognizes the equal rights of Palestinians and ends its violation of their human rights and of international law,” the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s director Ben Jamal told The Electronic Intifada.

Osamor also retweeted a tweet by BDS South Africa which stated that similar tactics had helped the struggle against apartheid in their country:

Osamor’s public support for BDS highlights an apparent split in the party’s shadow cabinet. A left-winger who represents a constituency in North London, Osamor is a strong ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Her endorsement runs counter to shadow foreign minister Emily Thornberry, who last month gave a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in which she claimed – echoing common Israeli propaganda – that BDS is “bigotry.”

In a 2015 interview with The Electronic Intifada when he was running for the leadership, Corbyn expressed support for key parts of the BDS movement, including an arms embargo and a boycott of Israeli universities involved in arms research.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Corbyn told The Electronic Intifada that the “quotes stand.” Meanwhile, The Guardian quoted a spokesperson saying Corbyn “doesn’t support BDS,” only “targeted action aimed at illegal settlements and occupied territories” – but standing by Osamor’s right to support BDS.

Asked by The Electronic Intifada to clarify, the spokesperson said that Corbyn still “supports targeted boycotts of those Israeli academic institutions involved in arms research and surveillance of the Palestinian population.” The spokesperson last month also told The Electronic Intifada that Corbyn stood by the 2015 interview.

Labour Friends of Israel’s chair Joan Ryan condemned Osamor on Wednesday, calling on her to withdraw her support for BDS, claiming it “seeks to demonize” Israel – another common Israeli government talking point.

Labour Friends of Israel is a lobby group within the UK’s main opposition party that coordinates closely with the Israeli embassy.

In an undercover Al Jazeera documentary in January, Ryan was caught on camera faking an incident of anti-Semitism against a Palestine Solidarity Campaign activist at the 2016 Labour conference.

Updated with further Corbyn spokesperson quote.

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Kate Osamor's principled stand on behalf of Palestinian rights is to be commended, not condemned. Her position stands in stark contrast to that put forward by Emily Thornberry before a recent gathering of Labour Friends of Israel. More progressive MPs should speak out in a similar vein to Ms Osamor. Even those motivated solely by self interest must realise that the days of Israel's domination of British politics on the issue of Palestine are coming to an end. The people are fed up with Zionist pretensions, interference, smears and threats.

BDS is gaining strength, and a love of justice is the reason why.

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Kate,

Well done lass. Need to say what needs to be said in this matter. And Thornberry is so very wrong. It appears to me to be no more than ambition: Thornberry appears to be pursuing political/financial support ahead of most Labour members' opinion and, frankly, opposing the damn truth of this illegal occupation.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.