UK government votes to become a stooge for ‘Israel’

British BDS bill

MPs rob the public of more freedoms in order to shield the apartheid state from criticism and boycott

By Stuart Littlewood

The UK’s House of Commons has just passed the second reading of the government’s Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, which aims to ban Britain’s public bodies from boycotting or divesting from foreign countries and territories, especially Israel.

It did so as Israel’s troops rampaged and slaughtered their way through the Palestinian town of Jenin, which is home to thousands of refugees and their descendants who were dispossessed and put to flight by murderous Jewish militias rampaging through their homeland and stealing their lands and resources in 1947-48.

The government says it wants to stop public bodies, such as local authorities, pursuing their own foreign policy and boycotting Israel when usually they simply wish to act ethically and make sure they deal only with overseas states and companies that uphold human rights.

Several campaigns had urged MPs to reject the bill. Amnesty International, in a briefing document, explained how it undermined human rights. For example:

  • It would become almost impossible for public bodies to use their procurement and investment policies to encourage ethical business conduct that is human rights compliant.
  • Businesses making an effort to adhere to global standards, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
  • It undermines the freedom of expression of public sector decision makers who may find that statements of principle are illegal and punishable even if not actually reflected in their decisions.
  • It uniquely privileges one state, Israel, at a time when Israeli authorities continue to flagrantly breach international law and impose a system of apartheid on Palestinians.
  • It conflicts with the UK’s long-standing policy to differentiate between Israel’s internationally recognised borders and the occupied Palestinian territories (which are not recognised as part of Israel).
  • It runs contrary to the UK’s endorsement of UN Resolution 2334, which requires states to differentiate between their dealings with Israel within its own recognised borders and within the occupied Palestinian territories.
  • It undermines attempts by the UK’s devolved governments to integrate human rights into their procurement policies.

Amnesty International urged all MPs to speak and vote against the bill in its entirety, as it wasn’t amenable to amendment.

“Boycott has long been understood as a legitimate form of expression, protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Labour Hubthen reported that a legal opinion written by Stephen Cragg KC, a specialist in international human rights law, suggests the proposed legislation does indeed breach the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Here’s why:

Firstly, the bill appears to breach Article 10 of the European Convention, which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression”. None of the conditions limiting the expression of this right – “national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary” – apply in the case of this bill. Thus, “there is a strong case to say that it is incompatible with the ECHR.”

Secondly, the opinion notes that the bill gives the enforcement authority the power to issue a notice to a public authority requesting information – including personal information – that will enable them to assess whether the public authority has (or is likely to) contravene the legislation. Such a measure could also fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. “This could pose severe intrusions on individuals’ right to respect for private life under Article 8 ECHR while also impacting even further on freedom-of-expression rights”.

The bill is certainly against the spirit of freedom of speech. As the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression said in relation to BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] restrictions in the USA in 2019, the legislation “appears clearly aimed at combating political expression advocating boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel. Boycott, however, has long been understood as a legitimate form of expression, protected under Article 19 (2) of the ICCPR [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].”

There are further concerns that the government is reserving to itself the power to use secondary legislation to remove countries and territories from the ban as it sees fit. “There must be concerns about the power of the government to alter important and controversial legislation by way of secondary legislation without proper parliamentary scrutiny.”

Despite the damage this bill would do to our hard-earned freedoms and the exercise of common sense, fewer than 70 MPs (out of 650) voted against it, which surely indicates how bamboozled and subservient to Israeli propaganda Parliament has allowed itself to become. There are supposedly safeguards against this sort of thing – for example, MPs are bound by the Seven Principles of Public Lifewhich forbid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work, and acting or taking decisions for personal gain; and they must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

A majority of Conservatives have blatantly signed up to Friends of Israel, as have many Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, yet the Committee on Standards in Public Life is never brought into play on these matters. There is also a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The gentleman appointed is Jewish. No, you couldn’t make it up.

BDS = non-violent pressure by civil society on Israel to comply with international and human rights law

So this bill, launched by notorious Israel pimp Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, appears to be aimed at protecting a criminal foreign power. Gove has long supported rewarding apartheid Israel for its decades of crimes against humanity. This from Wiki:

Gove has described himself as “a proud Zionist”… In 2019, he reiterated “One thing I have always been since I was a boy is a Zionist” and spoke of his desire to “celebrate everything that Israel and the Jewish people have brought to the life of this world and hold it dear to our hearts” and that “For as long as I have breath in my body and a platform on which to argue I shall be on your side, by your side and delighted and honoured to argue, powerfully I hope, on behalf of people who have contributed so powerfully to the life of this nation”.

Like the ballyhoo promoting the IHRA’s [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of anti-Semitism, this anti-BDS bill runs smack into established human rights law. That it passed its second reading shows how carelessly deluded our MPs are.

For the record, in 2005 170 Palestinian civil society organisations, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, formed their own BDS movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions to exert non-violent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting just three demands:

  • ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantling the illegal separation Wall;
  • recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  • respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

Not too much to ask in a civilised world, one would have thought. Today the BDS movement has a worldwide following and continues to grow. So why is the UK Parliament so hostile to Palestinians securing their right to self-determination within the recognised borders of their own homeland, and so desperate to protect the Israeli regime from the consequences of its brutal military interference and war crimes against those defenceless people?


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