London mayor causes controversy on Israel visitIBTimes UK

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been banned from visiting a Palestinian charity after he dismissed those behind a boycott of Israel as "lefty academics". He arrived on 8 November for a three-day visit in Israel and the Palestinian territories on a trip officially billed as a "trade visit" and included meetings with local business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Johnson was expected to meet with a group of young Palestinians at the Sharek Youth Forum's headquarters in the West Bank on Wednesday (11 November) as part of his tour of Israel, but was told he was not welcome.

The cancellation was in response to the Conservative MP's "inaccurate, misinformed, and disrespectful statement" regarding the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, a spokesperson for the charity said.

Israel BDS-backers 'lefty academics'

This comes after Johnson hit out at those involved BDS-backers in the UK on 9 November, dismissing them as "ridiculous snaggle-toothed, corduroy-wearing, lefty academics" who were unlikely to have influence in Britain.

In October, more than 300 academics from dozens of British universities pledged to boycott Israeli universities in protest at what they call intolerable human rights violations against the Palestinian people.

Speaking in Tel-Aviv, he said the boycotters were "a very small majority". Johnson told reporters: "I cannot think of anything more foolish than to say you want to have any kind of divestment or sanctions or boycott against a country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region, is the only place that has, in my view, a pluralist open society.

"Why boycott Israel? And by the way I think there is some misunderstanding over here about it. The supporters of this so-called boycott are really a bunch of, you know, corduroy-jacketed academics. They are by and large lefty academics who have no real standing in the matter and I think are highly unlikely to be influential on Britain. This is a very, very small minority in our country who are calling for this."

Banned from visiting the Sharek Youth Forum

Johnson's comments were criticised by UK-based charity War on Want, a supporter of the BDS movement, and rejected by the West Bank Sharek Youth Forum.

"It is our conclusion, supported by the Palestinian youth that we represent, that he consciously denies the reality of the occupation that continues to oppress them and all Palestinians," the spokesperson for the charity told The Independent.

"As Palestinians and supporters of BDS, we cannot in good conscience host Johnson, a person who denounces the international BDS movement and prioritises the feelings of wearers of 'corduroy jackets' over an entire nation under occupation.

"In Johnson's own words, the 'only democracy in the region... a pluralist, open society' is one that oppresses citizens, confiscates land, demolishes homes, detains children, and violates international humanitarian and human rights law on a daily basis. We, at Sharek Youth Forum, refuse to give a platform to someone who fails to acknowledge our very existence as Palestinians."

The charity informed Johnson it was scrapping his visit hours before his expected arrival.

Palestinian ban on Israeli journalist

Johnson's visit to the Palestinian territories on 11 November was also overshadowed by a ban on an Israeli reported covering his trip. Noga Tarnopolsky, a correspondent covering the three-day visit for the Jewish Chronicle, was told by the Palestine Business Women's Forum she was banned from attending a meeting with the London mayor because she is Israeli.

On 11 Novem,ber, the European Union formally approved plans to label goods produced in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in a move likely to increase friction with Israel.

The European Commission "adopted this morning the Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967", said an EU official. The notice will contain guidelines for labelling products from the settlements.

The EU does not recognise Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which were seized after the 1967 Six-Day War. The labelling policy would distinguish between products made inside the internationally accepted borders and those made outside.