Theresa May: No excuses for anti-Semitism or calls for Israel boycott

Prime Minister Theresa May hit out at anti-Semitism (Aaron Chown/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

There can be no excuses for anti-Semitism or “unacceptable” calls to boycott Israeli goods, Theresa May told leaders of the UK’s Jewish community.

The Prime Minister said criticising the actions of Israel’s government could never be an excuse for “hatred against the Jewish people”.

Her comments come after Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party became embroiled in a series of rows over its approach to tackling anti-Semitism.

After weeks of wrangling, Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee adopted all of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) examples of anti-Semitic behaviour but the party faced heavy criticism for issuing an accompanying statement that it says will ensure the move does “not in any way undermine freedom of expression” on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.

In an address at the United Jewish Israel Appeal dinner in London, the Prime Minister said the Government she leads was the first in the world to adopt the IHRA wording and “because of this definition, no-one can plead ignorance or hide behind any kind of excuse”.

In an apparent message to the Labour leadership the Prime Minister added: “Let me be clear: you cannot claim to be tackling racism, if you are not tackling anti-Semitism.”

Mrs May also rejected the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which has campaigned for bans on the sale of Israeli goods and the withdrawal of funding from firms based there in protest at the treatment of Palestinians.

“There can never be any excuses for boycotts, divestment or sanctions: they are unacceptable and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to them,” she said.

“Under my leadership the UK will always be a real and trusted partner for Israel, supporting Israel’s security and prosperity, not just through our words but also through our actions.”

But she acknowledged the UK had “some disagreements” with the government of Israel.

“I want to see progress towards a lasting peace – a peace that must be based on a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state,” she said.

“There will need to be courage and vision from each side if we are to have a realistic chance of achieving this goal – including an end to the building of new settlements and an end to Palestinian incitement too.”