Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Protest Planned over Bid to Stifle Boycott of Israel

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Protest Planned over Bid to Stifle Boycott of Israel

Article excerpt

Byline: Hannah Graham Reporter hannah.graham@trinitymirror.com

NORTH East politicians and pro-Palestine campaigning groups have hit out at controversial government rules preventing publicly-funded bodies from boycotting Israeli goods.

Protestors plan to stage a rally outside Newcastle Civic Centre, calling for the ban to be lifted.

Meanwhile, Labour councillors in Newcastle say the rules are "an attack on local democracy" and have pledged to oppose them.

New guidance published on Wednesday banned councils, NHS trusts and other bodies which benefit from government funding from refusing to buy goods or services from particular firms on ethical grounds. And councillors fear that rules may be extended to prevent them from refusing to invest pension pots in companies involved in ethically contentious areas such as the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

According to a statement from the Cabinet Office: "Town hall boycotts undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarising debate, weakening integration and fuelling anti-Semitism."

But Coun Dipu Ahad, who is involved in organising the rally, which will take place on Thursday 25, said: "No one is saying anything against the Jewish people, all we are doing is speaking up against the illegal occupation in Palestine."

He added: "As elected councillors we are representing the people, and we can make decisions for the people who have locally elected us. If you take away these rights and pick and choose what decisions we can make, then that's not democracy.

"We have got a mandate - we've been elected to stand up for the people and our Labour Party values, which are international, and mean that we will stand up for everyone who is being oppressed." The rally is being jointly organised by Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign, North East Friends of Al Aqsa and Newcastle Labour Friends of Palestine.

Newcastle City Council has also taken a stance on the controversy. …

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