Corbyn-backed boycotts of Israeli goods are 'morally wrong', says Tom Watson

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Tension between Labour’s two most senior figures has heightened, after Deputy Leader Tom Watson said boycotts of Israeli goods that have been backed by Jeremy Corbyn are "morally wrong".

Mr Watson accused some people undertaking such boycotts of trying to "demonise and delegitimise" Israel and claimed they are doing nothing to further the cause of peace.

The speech given to the Labour Friends of Israel group stands in stark contrast to comments made by Mr Corbyn in which he supported "targeted" boycotts of some Israeli goods.

Relations between the pair are strained, with previous divergences over Israel, Brexit and Mr Corbyn’s continued leadership.

In his speech, Mr Watson hit out at people he claimed had been "celebrating" recent fires in Israel, posting on Twitter using the hashtag "IsraelIsBurning".

He went on: "And those in this country who campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions seek to demonise and delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state.

"Let me be clear. The BDS movement is morally wrong. It is failing. And it does nothing to advance the cause of peace or advance a two-state solution."

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS, movement describes its work as campaigning to "end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law".

Mr Corbyn came under pressure during the Labour leadership campaign to state his position on boycotts, following reports that he backed them.

Clarifying his position in a letter in August, he said: "I am not in favour of the academic or cultural boycott of Israel, and I am not in favour of a blanket boycott of Israeli goods.

"I do support targeted boycotts aimed at undermining the existence of illegal settlements in the West Bank."

Earlier this month Mr Watson and other MPs toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum following an invitation from Israel’s Labour party, but it came just months after Mr Corbyn had declined a similar invitation due to a busy schedule.

Mr Watson, who has previously asked Mr Corbyn to stand down, also intervened at the start of November to say Labour would not block the Government from triggering Brexit talks, after Mr Corbyn gave an interview setting out "bottom lines" for any EU withdrawal deal.