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UK court backs local council over ban on Israeli settlement goods

Court of Appeal says Leicester City Council's criticism of Israel and boycott of settlement goods is 'in line with a respectable body of opinion'
A Palestinian man gestures during a protest against a new settlement outpost near Hebron (Reuters)

The UK's Court of Appeal has rejected a bid by pro-Israel campaigners to force a local council to overturn its boycott of goods produced from illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Leicester City Council has boycotted settlement goods since 2014 and says the ban will remain in place until Israel "complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian occupied territories".

Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW) had argued that the ban breached equality legislation which required authorities to have due regard to eliminating discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

It argued the ban "singled out Israel for different treatment" and "failed properly or sufficiently to consider its effect on the Jewish community".

But that argument was rejected by the court on Tuesday, which said the council's criticism of Israel was "in line with a respectable body of opinion" and "temperate and legitimate".

"There is legitimate scope for criticism of Israel without that implying anti-Semitic attitudes. There was nothing in the context set by the proposed resolution and the debate to suggest that the resolution was in fact being proposed as a cover for or incitement to anti-Semitism," the ruling said.

Peter Soulsby, Leicester's mayor, said: “Their argument has been trounced in the judge’s decision. I strongly resent the implication it is not possible to criticise the Israeli government without being anti-Semitic.”

Kamal Adatia, the council's barrister, said the ruling was a landmark judgement for local councils.

“The High Court originally dismissed the claims of discrimination made by this group back in June 2016, and now the Court of Appeal has emphatically thrown out their appeal," he said.

“The ruling totally endorses Leicester’s approach to handling this motion, and has made no change whatsoever to the way in which councils can pass such motions in future.

“The judgement is a landmark – not for organisations like JHRW, but for all local councils. It recognises their fundamental right to pass motions of this nature and makes it clear that they can, like Leicester, fully comply with their equality duties when doing so.”

A spokesperson for JHRW said the ruling was an "important victory against anti-Semitism" which would change the way councils could propose and discuss boycott motions.

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