Friday, 6 May 2016

Seeing antisemitism where none exists

An organisation which goes by the name of Jewish Human Rights Watch has branded Swansea City Council antisemitic. The cause is a motion which sought to distance the authority from a multi-national company building a railway making life easier for inhabitants of illegal settlements. The company was French (not Jewish) Veolia and the motion made no reference to Jews. As relayed on it read:

“The UN not only does not recognise Israel’s annexation and occupation of East Jerusalem, but has repeatedly stated its view that the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank contravene international law, and it has demanded that Israeli settlement activities and occupation should not be supported. The international trading company, Veolia, is a leading partner in a consortium seeking to build a light railway system linking Israel to illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, a project that clearly not only contravenes UN demands but is in contravention of international law.
This Council therefore calls on the Leader & Chief Executive not to sign or allow to be signed any new contracts or renewal of any existing contracts with Veolia or any other company in breach of international law, so long as to do so would not be in breach of any relevant legislation.”

Now, one can argue that local authorities should not make moral judgments or refuse to deal with companies whose conduct in this country is legal, even though they may contravene international law abroad. By this way of thinking, the council's sole concern should be achieving the best deal for the council tax payer. Presumably this is why a number of Liberal Democrat councillors voted against.

However, what the motion is not is racist. Only a group which believes that the Netanyahu government can do no wrong and that it represents the whole of Judaism can see this refusal to deal with an amoral company as antisemitic.

One can easily envisage public bodies after the war refusing to deal with Bayer, or IG Farben, once the truth about the gas-chambers was out - would that be described as an anti-German, or anti-Christian, action?

JHRW has won the right to a judicial review of the council's decision, it seems. The BBC report reckons that local taxpayers will be faced with a bill of tens of thousands of pounds as a result. A finding against Swansea CC could see that multiplied tenfold. The winners in all this are JHRW who I doubt many had heard of before this controversy and the lawyers.

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