Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith opposes BDS

Owen Smith has come out against the Palestinian-led campaign to boycott Israel. (Owen2016 Campaign)

The man who wants to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the UK Labour Party has come out against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Owen Smith said on Tuesday that he is “not convinced that a boycott of goods from Israel would help.”

He instead advocated that Labour “build bridges” with Israel.

“As friends of the people of Israel and Palestine, our most important task is to help foster cooperation and coexistence,” he wrote.

Smith’s statement came in a letter to Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

Jeremy Corbyn has gone on the record in support of the BDS movement, which aims to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights, many times. He is a leader of long standing in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which pushes for BDS.

Corbyn on BDS

Last year, Corbyn told The Electronic Intifada he supports a boycott of Israeli institutions complicit in violations of Palestinian rights.

“If it is a university that is doing research into drones, taser weapons, or doing research into surveillance of the occupation in Gaza and elsewhere then they should be part of the boycott,” he said.

Almost all Israeli universities are involved in such research.

At a debate for the four leadership candidates organized by Labour Friends of Israel during last year’s election campaign, Corbyn advocated for “economic measures” to hold Israel accountable, even in front of a skeptical audience.

Questioned about support for BDS, he outlined some of the ways Israel is in violation of international law and asked “is it right that we should be supplying arms in that situation?”

The Owen Smith campaign did not reply to a request for comment.

“Black ops”

Smith launched his leadership campaign in July, after an attempt by Labour MPs to oust Corbyn in a failed coup.

The only opinion poll conducted in the two-way leadership election gave Corbyn a 24-point lead over Smith last week.

The Palestinian-led global BDS campaign was founded more than a decade ago.

In light of the utter failure of world governments and institutions to hold Israel accountable, 170 Palestinian organizations called for civil society boycotts of Israel similar to those that helped pressure South Africa to end apartheid in the 1980s.

Their call for BDS urges that the pressure continue until Israel abides by international law and universal human rights by ending its occupation of Palestinian land, respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees and granting full equality to Palestinians in Israel.

The movement has become so effective that the Israeli government now has an entire department – the ministry of strategic affairs – and a $45-million budget dedicated to what it calls a “war” against BDS.

A veteran Israeli intelligence correspondent on Sunday reported that the anti-BDS ministry, working with Israeli spy agencies, may be conducting “black ops” or “special operations” including “defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists” as well as “infringing on and violating their privacy.”




In the image: the woman behind his left shoulder is looking like either "Do I know you?" or "I don't trust you".


Wonder if they know he opposes BDS - its official policy of 3 biggest unions - viz Unite,Unison & GMB


Didn't even close the browser, but immediately went to to vote for Corbyn


Despite his impeccable anti-Left credentials (BBC producer, Pfizer pharmaceuticals lobbyist, hand-picked candidate of the Blairite faction within Labour) Smith has been running on the preposterous claim that he shares Corbyn's socialist values and policies. If he comes within twenty points of winning this election, it will only be down to the unprecedented vote-rigging purge carried out by the coup plotters in the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. And by the way, Smith's opposition to BDS is a far more valid expression of his actual views on a host of related questions- empire, war, the ravages of neoliberal capitalism, and democracy itself. He's the candidate of the pro-Israel sector in Labour, entirely comfortable with the unfolding crimes of Zionist occupation. Of course he wants "dialogue". Dialogue costs nothing. In fact, his own campaign has demonstrated just how cheap talk can be.


Every day you learn another reason to laugh at Owen Smith. Really. There are worse ways to react, but he is basically a joke.


BDS worked - eventually against South Africa. It took a long time because apartheid South Africa was supported by the UK, the USA - and of course Israel with nuclear weapons. However, with perseverence and a change of attitude by the major industrialised nations who kept on supplying military equipment to the apartheid regime, until it was obvious that something needed to be done to end that apartheid regime, the same will happen with the current apartheid regime. At that stage the government perpetrating genocide in Palestine will have criminal charges laid against them in the international courts. However I am now 90 and probably won't live long enough to see the changes which bring freedom to Palestine.


What beautiful soul you have you remind me of an activist in Holland who said much the same thing that the only wish he has left before he dies is to see Palestine free (from the river to the sea).


Dear Mannie - so we have to hurry up!

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).