Judges rule local councils must consider BDS impact on Jewish communities
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Judges rule local councils must consider BDS impact on Jewish communities

Case brought by JHRW sought to challenge local authorities attempts to boycott Israel, after Leicester City Council voted for BDS in 2014

Leicester Town Hall tower
Leicester Town Hall tower

Three High Court judges have ruled that councils must consider the effect on an area’s Jewish population if it is to debate Israel boycotts.

The case, brought by Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW), was brought to tackle “disguised” resolutions being adopted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign by local authorities.

Lawyers for Leicester City Council, which in 2014 voted to boycott settlement goods, argued that in debating such resolutions, it did not need to give due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and to foster good community relations.

The Council also argued that a duty to do so would infringe Councillor’s rights to free speech. However the judges disagreed, ruling instead that such debates did attract the protection of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).

Campaigners this week described it as “very significant” victory on “a major point of principle” which Leicester Council argued against, an argument they said was “shocking”.

Leicester adopted the BDS resolution before the Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government issued its Public Procurement Note to local authorities, warning that resolutions of this kind should not be adopted for fear of potential adverse effects on community relations.

This was successfully challenged in the High Court by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, judges finding that the Government had acted improperly in attempting to use pension law to curtail BDS campaigns, but this ruling was overturned last month.

A spokesman for JHRW said: “This ruling is an important victory against anti-Semitism and indeed all forms of discrimination… It in effect spells the end for anti-Semitic and any other discriminatory resolutions in local government.”

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