British Foreign Secretary statement on Israel boycotts

David MilibandBritain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband has expressed dismay that motions calling for boycotts of Israel are being discussed by trade union congresses and conferences.

In a statement published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website Mr Milband said:

‘The Government is dismayed that motions calling for boycotts of Israel are being discussed at trade union congresses and conferences this summer.

Mr Lewis, Minister of State responsible for the Middle East, is this week meeting representatives of leading British unions in order to make clear the Government’s firm belief that calls for boycotts of Israel cannot and do not contribute to peace.

British people of all backgrounds are distressed and frustrated by the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many wish to take action to advance the goals of peace and justice, a response I understand and share intensely.

But I am saddened when this proactive energy is channelled into boycotting economic and academic events, as well as cultural events which seek to increase understanding between people. Such boycotts would, I believe, obstruct opportunities forco-operation and dialogue and serve only to polarise debate further. Boycotts would only make it harder to achieve the peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve and desire.

Rather than seeking to boycott, I urge the British unions to help find a shared solution to common challenges, and I am encouraged that they are ready to do so.

I commend Israeli and Palestinian trade unions for their determination to build bridges between their societies, for example through joint training for their members.

Initiatives like this bring people closer together, rather than pushing them further apart, and the Government welcomes and encourages British union support for such projects.

It is vital that we do all we can to break the vicious cycle of fear and mistrust and help Israelis and Palestinians find common ground so that they can live together in peace.’