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Kate Osamor defends backing Israeli boycott and denies Labour frontbench split

2 min read

Labour frontbencher Kate Osamor has defended her support for a boycott of Israeli goods and insisted that the Shadow Cabinet is not split over the issue.

The Shadow International Development Secretary sparked a row last week by tweeting her backing for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which says it "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians".

The move appeared to put her at odds with Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who said last month that opposition to the Israeli government can never "justify a hatred of the nation and its people, or a boycott of its products".

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson also described the BDS movement as "morally wrong" last year.

In the wake of the row a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: "Jeremy is not in favour of a comprehensive or blanket boycott. He doesn't support BDS. He does support targeted action aimed at illegal settlements in occupied territories."

Joan Ryan MP, chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, wrote to Ms Osamor last week asking her to clarify her position.

In her response, a copy of which has been seen by PoliticsHome, the Edmonton MP insisted her tweet did not put her at odds with Labour policy or her frontbench colleagues.

She said: "The BDS movement encompasses a wide range of targeted boycotts and sanctions in support of an end to Israeli occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis.

"However, neither Emily, myself or the Labour party as a whole supports a blanket BDS policy towards Israel, and we continue to support a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on an end to the occupation and a two-state solution: a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine."

A spokesman for LFI said: "However it sometimes dresses it up, the BDS movement’s goal is a total boycott of the world’s only Jewish state.

"Labour cannot oppose a ‘blanket’ boycott of Israel and support the BDS movement, as Kate Osamor appears to think it can, and her letter directly contradicts statements previously made by both Tom Watson and Emily Thornberry.”

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