Headlines: January 15th, 2009

The Government may face a call to allow local authorities to consider moral and human rights issues when they make decisions on awarding contracts. An all-party group from Birmingham City Council, the country’s largest local authority, has won support for the idea following Israeli attacks on Gaza .

After members supported a call for a boycott of Israeli goods and services a cross-party statement was issued calling on the council’s Executive to lobby the government to permit local authorities “to exercise moral, ethical and human rights considerations when awarding contracts.” The council leadership is also being urged to pursue a policy of instituting sanctions against Israel.

The call for a boycott of Israeli goods and services was initiated by Councillor Salma Yaqoob, leader of the Respect group, with the support of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues. Councillor Yaqoob described the all-party call as a significant breakthrough and added, “The principle here is moral consistency. It is not that Israel should be singled out for punitive measures, but that it should stop being treated with kid gloves and given diplomatic cover for acting above the law.”

One of the factors that brought an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa, she said, was international pressure for economic, sporting and cultural boycotts and it was time Israel felt similar pressure from world opinion.