Wales

Anti-Semitic legal claim against Swansea and Gwynedd councils

Swansea and Gwynedd councils Image copyright Jaggery/Geograph

Two Welsh councils are facing legal action over claims they continue to uphold motions alleged to be racist.

Jewish Human Rights Watch, an organisation set up to address a claimed rise in anti-Semitism in the UK, has won the right to a judicial review hearing over motions passed by Swansea and Gwynedd councils.

It is believed the legal fight could cost both local authorities tens of thousands of pounds.

Both councils have denied the claims.

In 2010, Swansea council was seeking to be involved in contracts with Veolia, a company which was also part of a consortium looking to build a railway system linking Israel to settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

The motion put before the council stated the project "not only contravenes UN demands but is in contravention of international law". It also said the United Nations "has demanded that Israeli settlement activities and occupation should not be supported".

A number of councillors called on the council leader at the time and its chief executive to "support the position of the UN in regards to the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, so long as to do so would not be in breach of any relevant legislation".

They also called for the council to not do business with "any company in breach of international law or UN obligations or demands, so long as to do so would not be in breach of any relevant legislation".

The motion was approved in June 2010, but it remains non-binding.

'Detrimental impact'

In 2014, Gwynedd council passed a motion which called for a trade embargo with Israel, condemning the "attacks by the Israeli state on the territory of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip".

It also said: "It must be made clear that the proposal condemned the Israeli state and not the Jewish religion."

But a solicitor representing Jewish Human Rights Watch, Robert Festenstein, said: "We would like to see the motions quashed. I don't understand why they would pass it in the first place.

"I mean, they wouldn't pass a motion saying something derogatory about women, so why would they do that about Jews?

"Why would they pass a motion which has a detrimental impact upon the relationship with Jewish people in Swansea, particularly in Wales generally? It has absolutely nothing to do with Swansea."

In a statement a Swansea council spokesman said: "On 10 March 2016, full council decided not to rescind the notice of motion that was passed on 17 June, 2010.

"The council has never boycotted Israeli goods and has no intention of doing so. For legal reasons, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

A spokesman for Gwynedd council said: "It would not be appropriate for us to comment regarding this matter due to ongoing legal proceedings which the council is defending."

JHRW will also be taking action against Leicester council.

The judicial review hearing will begin on Wednesday and is expected to last for two days.