British Mayor Denies anti-Semitism Prompted Boycott of Israeli Settlement Goods

Local report cites Leicester mayor as saying move was made over 'serious and well-founded concerns about the behavior of the Israeli state.'

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The mayor of Leicester, the tenth largest city in the United Kingdom, has denied that the city council's decision to boycott goods from Israeli settlements in the West Bank was an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic act, the Leicester Mercury reported.

"This is not in any way a question of being anti-Jewish," said Sir Peter Soulsby, a member of the Labour Party. “It is a question of having very serious and well-founded concerns about the behavior of the Israeli state, which is a very different thing from being in any way hostile to any particular religious group."

The decision to boycott settlement produce was adopted after a 70-minute debate two weeks ago. It was proposed by Labor councilman Mohammed Dawood with strong support from his Labour colleagues, despite party leader Ed Miliband's publicly stated opposition to boycotts of Israel.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that the ban will "only apply to services run by Leicester City Council and is unlikely to have any significant impact within the Midlands city."

Councilors said the boycott would stand “until Israel withdraws from Palestinian occupied territories”.

Dawood acknowledged that the move would not leave the Knesset “trembling in its shoes,” but said people living in Leicester wanted to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

Conservative councilors opposed the Labour-backed motion.

Conservative city councilor Ross Grant said the debate was “political posturing” and the subsequent media coverage had “unfortunately portrayed Leicester as anti-Jewish."

“We can’t internationalize Leicester," said Rabbi Shmuli Pink, of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation. "The council should focus on harmonizing the city."

Councilors in Dudley, near Birmingham, dropped a similar anti-Israel motion after the Jewish Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council wrote to warn of the legal implications of such a move.