Lancaster Council: Lies About Israel Go Unopposed, Fuelling Antisemitism

On Wednesday 23 June Lancaster City Council passed the following motion:

This Council resolves to:

Express its support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement’s demands that Israel ends injustices that infringe international laws and Palestinian rights;

Write to the Lancashire County Pension Fund (part of the Local Government Pension Scheme) and the Local Pensions Partnership urging that they adopt policies requiring them to divest from all companies active in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine and all arms companies which supply weapons to Israel.

A link to the recording of the meeting is on the first page of the Agenda Sheet.

David Collier has profiled the ‘three far-left fascists behind this vile motion’. Here I document their lies, as evidenced by the recording (which fails towards the end of the debate – you cannot see the vote).

Let’s cut to the quick: The motion was based on a string of lies by its proposer, Councillor Jack O’Dwyer-Henry (age around 23) of the ‘Eco Socialist Independents’ (five Lancaster Councillors adopted this label after quitting Labour in protest against Keir Starmer’s election as Leader).  The seconder of the motion, Gina Dowding (Green Party), reinforced the lies.

Jack O’Dwyer Henry

Here’s what O’Dwyer-Henry said (with time stamps), followed by the truth:

1.26.35 On Monday night Palestinian protesters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem were met with tear gas and stun grenades by Israeli police. 20 Palestinians were wounded including one elderly person who was hit on the head.   Israeli settlers threw stones at ambulances that came to the protesters’ aid.

Truth: The trouble started when Arabs threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Jewish homes, lightly wounding a pregnant woman who was hit in the back with a stone. There is no video evidence or reliable witness evidence to corroborate the ambulance allegation.                         

Yesterday (Tuesday 22nd) about 40 settlers under the protection of Israeli police broke into the Al Aqsa Mosque complex.  This followed an incident on Friday [18 June) when 9 Palestinians were injured when police fired rubber coated steel bullets at worshippers gathered at the mosque.

Truth: There is no reliable corroboration of the first part.  It is possible that Israeli Jews ascended the Temple Mount to pray silently; the site is holy to Jews as well as Muslims. As for the second part, O’Dwyer-Henry failed to tell the meeting WHY police acted on Friday. There have been several cases of Police going after suspected criminals who have taken shelter inside the Mosque.

1.28.14 We saw during the recent escalation of violence in Palestine just this year that no-one is safe.  Schools, hospitals, journalists’ offices bombed.  Hundreds – women, children, innocents – killed. The human rights abuses for breaches in international law are egregious and undeniable.

Truth: Israel didn’t bomb any school or hospital. The journalists’ building – the Al-Jalaa Tower – was attacked because terrorists used it a military intelligence  base. It was the Hamas Communications Centre! Yes inevitably civilans are casualties in war – especially as Hamas sites its military depots amidst civilians. But yet again, Israel achieved a ratio of 1:1 of civilan casualties to combatants – a record low in asymmetric warfare. One estimate suggests that 91 of the 256 deaths were caused by Hamas rockets falling short.

1.29.18 By voting for this motion we will be sending a message to the government which is planning on introducing new laws to ban Councils from exercising our democratic rights to support BDS.

In fact the specific action that this motion is calling for – pension fund divestment – is something the Government argued wasn’t legal for Councils to do.   But last year the Supreme Court ruled against the government and in favour of BDS campaigners on this point.

Truth: This is a lie. The Supreme Court ruled that the Minister (former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid) had gone too far in saying that trustees must not invest contrary to government policy.  It did NOT consider whether pension funds could impose ‘ethical’ constraints without consulting the beneficiaries. It is patently obvious that they cannot. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to invest as best they can for the beneficiaries. To suddenly place limits on the range of investments goes diametrically counter to this obligation.  To market a new ‘ethical’ unit trust is perfectly legal. To impose constraints on a pension fund without a consensus anong the beneficiaries is obviously not.

1:32:32 There have been multiple international court rulings that have ruled against Israel’s illegal occupation.

Truth: A lie. No Court has ever said this. The UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly are not Courts, they are bodies with permanent anti-Israel majorities.

1:34:10 I’m unaware of any connections to terrorism … they [the settlements] breach international law …

Truth: As Councillor John Reynolds said, there are multiple links of the BDS movement to terror organisations.

Truth: The settlements DO NOT ‘BREACH INTERNATIONAL LAW’. The San Remo Conference (1920) drew up rules for the British Mandate. Article 6 charged Britain with the duty to facilitate Jewish immigration and close settlement by Jews in the territory which then included Transjordan. It has never been revoked so remains valid today.

The passing of this motion based on a farrago of lies is classic example of a central asymmetry in democratic politics: when you have a small minority dedicated to its cause versus a  majority opposed to that cause but only mildly willing to fight back, the minority is easily able to win. Even worse: The 39 Councillors who supported the mendacious motion or abstained have fuelled antisemitism. Just as Galloway is fuelling antisemitism across the Pennines in Batley and Spen.

In the case of this motion the Council Monitoring Officer, lawyer Luke Gorst, was consulted in advance of the motion but ‘had no further comment’. He should have called out the motion as an antisemitic ultra vires nonsense of course. But in all likelihood he did not have the time to do the Due Diligence needed to become expert enough. That is what happens when Councillors try to remake national foreign policy.  And in the debate none of the Councillors had the expertise to properly shoot down O’Dwyer-Henry’s lies. Again this is understandable. Their responsibilities are in local planning, transport, policing etc – not international relations.

The motion passed 26-11 with 13 abstentions. One can guess who the 26 were. The 4 Corbot ‘Eco Socialist Independents’ and the 10 Greens for sure. Most of the 11 Labour members. The 1 LibDem. Some of the 5 Independents. The 10 Conservatives – hopefully – all opposed. The 9 Morecambe Bay Independent members?? (There should obviously be  voting record, in the interest of accountability).

Maybe armed with this blog the Council could see sense at its next meeting and try to repair some of the damage it has done to the Jewish Community, the vast majority of whom are sick, tired and scared by the recent rise in Jew Hate ….??

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Addendum: Received 30 June: