Community leaders have insisted a vote by Labour Party’s governing body to boycott G4S over its links to Israel calls into question the party’s commitment to security and opposition to delegitimisation, writes Justin Cohen.
The national executive committee voted by 12 votes to four for the proposal following an unscheduled intervention by UNITE political director Jennie Formby, despite party general secretary Ian McNicol trying to rule the motion out of order, according to party sources.
Jewish News understands that around half the NEC’s 33 members had already left the meeting, including Jeremy Corbyn and deputy leader Tom Watson, and one member even told this newspaper she was unaware there would be a vote when she left the room briefly.
G4S has provided security at the party’s annual conference for several years. Apart from the links to Israel, there are understood to have been several long-standing issues between the company and parts of the party.
But Formby confirmed to Jewish News that the decision was taken “because of concerns this company has acted unethically and has been found in breach of the himan rights obligations of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies”
Labour Friends of Israel parliamentary chair, Joan Ryan MP, said she would be writing to McNicol to express “deep concern” over a move she claimed “directly contravenes” the party’s long-standing opposition to boycotts. “I hope it will now be urgently reviewed,” she said. “As I have consistently argued, boycotts are both wrong in principle by seeking to delegitimise Israel and do nothing to further the cause of peace, foster coexistence or assist the achievement of a two-state solution.”
A spokesperson for the Fair Play Campaign group, a joint initiative of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, attacked the move as “pointless gesture politics”.
A statement said: “The Labour NEC has decided to boycott G4S for providing metal detectors and security guards that protect Israeli civilians from terror attacks. The vote calls into question Labour’s commitment to security and conflicts with the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn’s strong statements opposing the de-legitimisation of Israel. So what is Labour’s policy now? We urge Labour’s General Secretary to ensure G4S is treated fairly and that this boycott is reversed.”
The move was also roundly condemned by former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who branded the move “stupid, pointless and damaging to British jobs. Labour seems to stumble from one fiasco another, engaging in gesture politics that ends up hitting British workers”.
The move came on the same day as Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn insisted the party must take on those who delegitimise Israel and just weeks after the party made clear its opposition to “general” boycotts of the Jewish state.
In a page dedicated to G4S on its website, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign says the company provides services and equipment to checkpoints in the West Bank and for “major Israeli prisons which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel. This is in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
Source: Jewish News