City of Sydney could tear up contracts with suppliers targeted by boycott Israel campaign

<span>Sydney’s mayor, Clover Moore, has backed a report into ‘companies involved in, or profiting from, any human rights violations including the illegal occupation of the settlements in Palestinian territories’.</span><span>Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP</span>
Sydney’s mayor, Clover Moore, has backed a report into ‘companies involved in, or profiting from, any human rights violations including the illegal occupation of the settlements in Palestinian territories’.Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The City of Sydney will consider tearing up contracts with suppliers targeted by the boycott Israel campaign, in a move the lord mayor, Clover Moore, hopes could “put additional pressure towards a ceasefire and an end to the humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

On Monday night, Moore backed a Greens motion for the council to prepare a report on the council’s investment policy regarding “companies involved in, or profiting from, any human rights violations including the illegal occupation of the settlements in Palestinian territories and the supply of weapons”.

The report, to be produced in the next three months, would include recommendations on changes the council could make “to ensure that council is not purchasing from companies involved in weapons or human rights abuses”.

The motion – called “report on City of Sydney suppliers and investments in relation to the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and Israel” – was passed eight votes to two.

Sylvie Ellsmore, a Greens councillor, said the existing policy committed the council to not invest in activities that involved human rights abuses or weapons.

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“This crucial first step will allow the council to identify what is needed for the City of Sydney to divest and/or change any procurement procedures in regards to companies that are involved in or profiting from human rights violations,” she said.

“Boycotts work because they send an important message to governments and companies about our values and they work because they remove real, tangible, financial support to those perpetrate violence and oppression.”

Moore said she was “appalled and sickened” by the crisis in Gaza. She said the council had consistently advocated for a lasting ceasefire, the safe return of hostages and negotiations for an enduring peace.

“Leaders must strive to break the cycle of violence in this region and ensure that neither Israelis nor Palestinians live in fear and at risk of harm or death,” she said. “Now, more than ever, we must use our voices to call for peace.”

The mayor, who is seeking a record sixth term, added: “If the city’s voice in this campaign can put additional pressure towards a ceasefire and an end to the humanitarian crisis, then I think we should carefully review our investments and suppliers.”

Two Liberal councillors, Lyndon Gannon and Shauna Jarrett, voted against the proposal.

Gannon said he had been contacted by dozens of Jewish constituents after the vote, concerned about the impact it could have on social cohesion and antisemitism.

“We’re a local government. We’re here to look after the roads, rates and rubbish, not virtue signal about wars in the Middle East,” he told Guardian Australia.

“This motion will do nothing to ease the suffering of people in the Middle East. It needlessly stokes tension in the local community at a time when we need calm.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Peter Wertheim said the council had “shown spectacular ineptitude in its latest foray into international affairs”.

“A body that struggles to achieve competence in collecting the garbage and fixing potholes might be over-reaching itself just a tad in its pretensions to forge peace in the Middle East,” he said.

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