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.
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.
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.”