A challenge by a Jewish rights organisation over the legality of local council “boycotts” on Israeli goods produced on the West Bank has been dismissed by the High Court.
Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW) asked for a ruling that the councils, in passing the boycott resolutions, breached equality law duties and failed to have regard “to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment of Jewish people”, or the need to foster good relations between Jewish and non-Jewish people.
Lawyers for Leicester City Council, Swansea City Council and Gwynedd Council said the case was “misconceived” and had been brought because JHRW “wants to stop local authorities debating Israel’s actions”.
Presiding judge Lord Justice Simon said: “The evidence is clear.
“The council resolutions did not override, or even affect, the lawful exercise of its public functions in relation to public supply or works contracts, and no contracts or potential contracts were affected by the resolutions.”
Jeffrey Kaufman, a Jewish member of Leicestershire council, meanwhile said the authority had “picked on Israel” and described his “dismay” at the High Court’s resolution.
In its original review application JHRW likened the “divisive” council action to the boycott of Jewish shops in 1930s Nazi Germany, and emphasised “the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment of Jewish people” in the UK.
The charity has announced its decision to appeal the ruling, which it described as “disappointing”.
JHRW claimed all three councils ignored their duty to eliminate discrimination and harassment of British Jewish people and to encourage strong community relations.
Placing an embargo on goods coming from parts of Israel also breached the councils’ obligations to act even handedly in procurement matters, it was also claimed.