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Councils cleared of discrimination over Israeli goods boycott

The High Court of Justice has dismissed claims of anti-Semitism against three councils after taking decisions to boycott goods produced in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Jewish Human rights Watch (JHRW) had sought a Judicial Review of decisions taken by Leicester City Council, Gwynedd Council, and the City and County of Swansea, but the judges ruled in favour of the local authorities.

JHRW alleged the decisions were anti-Semitic and the councils failed to have any regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty and their procurement duties as local authorities.

However, the High Court dismissed the claims. Lord Justice Simon said: “The evidence is clear: the Council resolutions did not override, or even affect, the lawful exercise of its public functions in relation to public supply or works contracts, and no contracts or potential contracts were affected by the resolutions.”

JHRW has been instructed to pay all of the legal costs incurred by the three councils.

Leicester’s City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby said: “This judgement confirms that councillors have the right to shine a spotlight on a legitimate area of public debate and to discuss issues that are of concern to their electorate.

Responding to the news, Ryvka Barnard, senior campaigner on Militarism and Security at War on Want, said: “The High Court ruling is a victory for local democracy and freedom of speech. The ruling affirms the right of local councils to act in solidarity with Palestinians and to ensure their policies are in line with international and UK law.     

“Local councils were instrumental in the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1980s, standing in solidarity with South Africans by resolving not to invest in or procure from companies supporting Apartheid. Now some of the same councils are taking action again, this time to end local government complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

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