Shadow minister hints Labour could back boycott of settlements

Shadow minister hints Labour could back boycott of settlements

Labour's Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor suggests the party could back BDS after 'education'

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Kate Osamor
Kate Osamor

Kate Osamor, the Shadow International Development Secretary, has strongly suggested that Labour could support the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement in the future, after a period of “education of a whole generation”.

In a wide-ranging interview with the political publication, the House magazine, Ms Osamor, a key ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, sidestepped the conclusion of deputy leader Tom Watson that BDS is “morally wrong”.

Instead, she said: “Sometimes people make statements but then they don’t look about the history around apartheid, around separation, around people living side by side. If anything there’s a different treatment for one over another and boycotting products. South African produce, when we look at that, did make a difference and it raised awareness. And for me it’s about raising awareness and bringing more people to a place where they understand ‘what can I do to help’”.

She added: “At the end of the day it is choice. It’s up to you what produce you buy. That’s very different to me saying that they are not allowed to make produce. I am saying people should not buy those produce from illegal settlements. If you choose to, it’s up to you.”

Asked whether Labour could support BDS as official party policy, Ms Osamor said that “unfortunately, a lot of people are not really educated on illegal settlements, people don’t understand what’s really going on, and it’s gone over their head. ‘It’s BDS, who cares, what’s that got to do with anything?’

“But I think we need to get to a place where we start educating everybody and make a decision based on that and then say, ‘this could be an alternative, this could be an option’.

“I would not say at this point in opposition we should be planning around boycotting without educating a whole generation that have missed out on that and don’t understand what’s going on.

“There’s a level of education that needs to take place first and I would more be an advocate of that than actually worrying about BDS or not because a lot of people aren’t educated and haven’t made a decision based on that. That’s not the biggest issue for me. The biggest issue for me is educating people around conflict across the globe and finding a place where we can get some resolution for people.”

Ms Osamor was asked why Jeremy Corbyn had directly commented on the situation in Gaza, while a statement on Syria was attributed to a Labour spokesperson. She acknowledged that statements should more properly come from department spokespeople, but also believed that Mr Corbyn was entitled to say what he thought.

However, she added: “We don’t want this to be about the British media and Jeremy, which it has become, as opposed to that people are being gassed, people are being shot or whatever and the government has decided this is what they need to do.

Osamor since responded, posting a statement on twitter to clarify: “It is not Labour Party policy to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and I fully support Labour’s commitment to comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine”.

She added, that “the quotes picked up in tonight’s media have been used selectively from a long and wide-ranging interview, and simply don’t represent my views. I agree to do the interview on the basis that t was to talk only about next week’s Commonwealth Summit. But none of that excuses that I should have been clearer and more careful in the language I used.”

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