Tom Watson: Campaign to boycott Israeli goods is 'morally wrong'
Tom Watson has described the boycotting of Israeli goods as "morally wrong" - just a year after Jeremy Corbyn gave the campaign his backing.
Labour's deputy leader said the so-called "boycotts, divestment and sanctions" (BDS) initiative were an attempt "to demonise and de-legitimise the world’s only Jewish state" and did nothing to bring about peace in the Middle East.
Mr Watson made his comments in a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in which he also admitted the party had been too slow to act on the anti-Semitism allegations which have dogged it over the past year
Speaking in Belfast last August, Mr Corbyn said: "I think the boycott campaign, divestment campaign, is part and parcel of a legal process that has to be adopted." He added: "I believe that sanctions against Israel, because of its breach of the trade agreement, are the appropriate way of promoting [the] peace process."
But Mr Watson said today: "Those in this country who campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions seek to demonise and de-legitimise the world’s only Jewish state.
"Let me be clear. The BDS movement is morally wrong. It is failing. And it does nothing to advance the cause of peace or advance a two-state solution."
Labour was hit with a wave of anti-Semitism allegations against party members over the past 12 months, but Mr Corbyn has been accused of not acting decisively to deal with them.
The party leader asked Shami Chakrabarti to carry out an anti-Semitism inquiry in the summer, but it was condemned as a "whitewash" after it said Labour did not have a serious problem. A fresh row then erupted when Ms Chakrabarti was awarded a peerage by Mr Corbyn.
Mr Watson said he was "ashamed that I am saying anti-Semitism and Labour in the same sentence" and vowed the party would not drag its heels in future.
In what appeared to be a thinly-veiled swipe at the Chakrabarti inquiry, Mr Watson added: "Dealing with it can’t be something we do for show, for the sake of it, because we’ve come under media pressure, or because we need to deal with a political problem. It’s a commandment.
"I know that people here are understandably frustrated by how long it’s taking the Labour party to deal with anti-Semitism in our midst. You’re right to be. It should have been quicker.
"I know there are still some outstanding issues that cannot be ignored. They won’t be ignored. Action is being taken now and if, God forbid, we find these problems again, action will be quicker in the future."
Elsewhere, Mr Watson insisted that the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah "are not friends of peace are no friends of the Labour party".
Mr Corbyn has come under fire for describing representatives of the terror groups "friends" at a parliamentary event several years ago.