Almost 50 UK pro-Palestine, civil society groups urge government against anti-boycott bill
Almost 50 British pro-Palestine and other civil society groups announced their opposition on Tuesday to an expected anti-boycott bill believed likely to target boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) efforts against Israel.
It is anticipated the proposed law will be announced on 10 May during the Queen's Speech, a yearly address by the British monarch that sets out the government's agenda for the next session of Parliament.
The 46 organisations who came out against the potential move include the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Greenpeace UK, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Methodist Church in Britain, Unite the Union and the National Union of Students.
"We advocate for the right of public bodies to decide not to purchase or procure from, or invest in companies involved in human rights abuse, abuse of workers' rights, destruction of our planet, or any other harmful or illegal acts," the groups said in a joint statement.
"We therefore oppose the government's proposed law to stop public bodies from taking such actions."
The statement added that the government has indicated any new law would seek to force public bodies to stick to British foreign policy when making decisions on investments and purchasing and procurement issues, especially regarding Palestine and Israel.
"We are concerned that this would prevent public bodies from deciding not to invest in or procure from companies complicit in the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people," it read.
PSC director Ben Jamal said: "Any restriction of the right to boycott is a restriction of core democratic rights – and the breadth of the groups launching this statement [on Tuesday] reflects that.
In-depth: How Palestine and BDS became part of New York's mayoral race - @Brookethenews writes https://t.co/l44UIjTSPg— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) June 4, 2021
"Palestinian rights may be the immediate target – but there can be no doubt that climate justice, human rights and freedom of expression could easily be targeted, as we have seen happen already in the US."
Jamal noted that, starting in 2017, the PSC spent three years challenging the government in court over regulations that would have impacted Local Government Pension Schemes' ability to divest.
The pro-Palestine group ultimately won, and Jamal added: "We will fight this new law with the same commitment."
A new Right to Boycott website has been launched containing Tuesday's statement and answers to common questions.
The New Arab has contacted the UK's Home Office for comment.