Labour shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has given his backing to shadow treasury minister Shabana Mahmood – even though she defied party policy by supporting a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements.

The Birmingham MP was ordered to change her stance by Labour leader Ed Miliband after taking part in a protest which led to the temporary closure of Sainsbury's in Birmingham city centre.

Labour officials even issued a statement which appeared to suggest she had changed her position.

But Ms Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, insisted she would not back down - and acknowledged she has "a difference of view with my party".

She said: "We all agree that Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal under international law and they are not part of Israel.

"As such, they are an obstacle to a two-state solution and a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. My position on the boycott of illegal settlement goods – precisely because the settlements themselves are illegal – is a difference of view with my party that is genuinely and respectfully held.

"There is no disagreement that a more general boycott of Israel would not contribute towards a lasting peace in the region – the most important goal for all of us – and that attacks by both sides need to stop.

"I am also hugely supportive of the unambiguous statement by Ed Miliband recently condemning the Prime Minister's failure to oppose Israel's incursion into Gaza. I strongly support Labour's desire to see a progressive lifting of the blockade on Gaza consistent with Israel's right to security."

 

Mr Balls said: "Shabana has been doing a brilliant job on corporate tax reform. She is a hugely valued member of my team and I support her 110 per cent. I think she will be a member of a future Labour cabinet.

"In any political party there will be times where people have long-standing issues of conflict. Sometimes it is about religion, sometimes for family reasons, sometimes for constituency reasons, and any political party has to respect that.

"Shabana is somebody who has been very loyal to the Labour party. She votes with the party on all the central issues. She has one issue that she has had for a long period of time – I have known about it for a number of years and have no issue with Shabana holding that view. She remains central to my team."

Ms Mahmood was part of a protest in support of the people of Gaza on August 2 which forced the store in Union Street to close.

She posted a video to her You Tube account, filmed as the demonstration took place, apparently boasting the store had lost business because it sold goods from Israeli settlements.

She said in the video: "It's half past three and the store has actually just shut as a result of the peaceful protest, that's about four and a half hours worth of business that Sainsbury's is losing for supporting goods from the Israeli settlements which are illegal under international law.

"So we're calling on Sainsbury's and all other stores that trade settlement goods they stop doing so, that they do not support people who have broken international law."

Free Palestine protest in and outside of Sainsbury's Martineau Place Birmingham city centre
Free Palestine protest in and outside of Sainsbury's Martineau Place Birmingham city centre

But the Labour leadership disowned her actions earlier this week – and revealed that Ms Mahmood had been told to stick to party policy.

In a statement issued on August 21, a Labour Party spokesperson said: "Ed Miliband has been clear that Labour does not support boycotts of Israel and we resolutely oppose the isolation of Israel.

"Labour remains committed to a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution, international law and a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.

"Having spoken to her, Shabana has made clear that she does not support calls for a boycott of Israel but supports the proper labelling of goods from the region as per the DEFRA guidelines."

Video Loading