The newly re-elected Conservative government is said to be passing a law in Britain to make it illegal for public bodies, such as local councils, to engage with boycott movements such as BDS.
The news comes after a speech by Conservative peer Lord Eric Pickles, the former MP who is now the UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, who was speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s conference in Jerusalem on Sunday night.
“BDS is antisemitic and should be treated as such,” Pickles said, explaining that the new law will not allow public bodies to work with those who boycott, divest from or sanction Israel in any way.
The aim of this bill is to stop Labour-led local councils from imposing boycotts against our allies, such as Israel. This is important because local councils should not be dictating the UK’s foreign policy or acting in violation of it.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is an anti-Israel boycott movement that singles out Israel, the world’s only Jewish state. Some local councils in the UK have foolishly given support to the scheme, despite 1 in 7 medicines on the NHS being provided by Israel. Cooperation with Israel is also vital in many aspects of technology, security and defence, as well as medical advancements coming from Israel.
Boris Johnson’s Conservative party, which won a landslide victory in last week’s general election, had pledged to tackle BDS in its election policy manifesto.
“We will ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries. These undermine community cohesion,” the document read.
Johnson has previously spoken out against BDS, telling the BBC in 2015 that he could “not think of anything more foolish than to say that 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.”
In direct contrast to this action, if Labour had won the election, we would be looking at BDS being part of the government’s plans. Corbyn has long advocated for “the entire world” to “boycott” and “isolate” Israel. Therefore, this is a welcome move by the UK.
It is hoped that the UK’s relationship with Israel will improve moving forward. Both Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have congratulated Johnson on his victory, stating that it was a positive development for Israel-UK relations.
We call upon the UK Government to officially recognise Jerusalem is Israel's capital and move its embassy to Jerusalem.