Public institutions in the United Kingdom soon might not be able able to engage in any sort of a boycott against Israel.
The British government is reportedly going to pass legislation that would prohibit universities, local government, councils and student unions from involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global campaign against Israeli aggression until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.
Cabinet Officer Minister Matthew Hancock will announce the new proposal during a trip to Israel this week.
Although it’s not clear if the bill distinguishes between Israel and the illegal West Bank settlements, the move clearly goes against people’s fundamental right to protest.
Eric Pickles, another member of the British Parliament and the head of Conservative Friends of Israel, welcomed the move.
“The attempt by the irresponsible left to demonize Israel is bad for British business, bad for the local taxpayer and deeply damaging to community relations,” he said. “It encourages anti-Semitism and strives to make a municipal foreign policy contrary to the interests of the U.K.”
Pickles might be right as far as the “bad for British business” aspect is concerned. But boycotts against Israel, including the BDS movement, in general focus more toward the businesses functioning in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Even the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently denounced Israel’s decision to continue building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories “as an affront to the Palestinian people and the international community.”
The purpose of the boycotts is often misinterpreted as being anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic, but it is not.
It’s simply about the rights of the people who are being driven away from their homes by force. Sure, there are radical advocates of the movement in the world and there is no way their actions can be justified, but the original and the basic message of the boycott remains the fight for the rights of evicted Palestinians.
By taking away the right to say no to illegal Israeli operations and aggression, the British government is taking away the British people’s right to voice their opinions.