Jewish youth groups oppose UK’s ‘anti-BDS bill’ as a ‘curtailment’ of basic rights

Jewish youth groups oppose UK’s ‘anti-BDS bill’ as a ‘curtailment’ of basic rights
Jewish youth organisations have vocalised their opposition to the British government's proposed anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanctions bill.
3 min read
01 March, 2023
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill will prevent public bodies from imposing sanctions on foreign countries [source: Getty]

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) along with other Jewish youth groups have expressed strong opposition to a proposed bill by the British government which seeks to ban economic and cultural boycotts of Israel. 

The UJS passed a motion last week which stated that the tabled anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) bill "weakens the ability of British Jewish students to approach the conversation about Israel in a nuanced manner". 

The proposed legislation - announced in the 2022 Queen’s Speech - seeks to prevent public bodies from "engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion". 

It has largely been viewed as a way to obstruct the non-violent BDS movement from peacefully pressuring the Israeli government to comply with international law, and has been condemned by a number of Palestine solidarity groups. 

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The UJS motion said: "UJS reaffirms its support for the democratic right to non-violently protest and opposes the government’s proposed Boycott Bill which is a curtailment of that right, as well as presenting a risk to British Jewish communities and a setback to Israeli-Palestinian peace." 

The motion, however, reiterated the organisation’s opposition to the BDS movement itself which they say does not "differentiate between internationally recognised pre-1967 borders of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories". 

The organisation will now write to the government about their opposition to the bill. 

Na’amod, an organisation of British Jews seeking "to end community support for the occupation", has also publicly criticised the proposed legislation.   

Staging a protest outside Westminister this week, the group said the "draconian Boycott Bill" is "the government instrumentalising antisemitisim to further its undemocratic aims and cover its own anti-Palestinian racism". 

Opposition has also been voiced by a number of youth Jewish movements, including Noam Masoerti and RSY-Netzer. 

In February 2022 British MPs voted in favour of Robert Jenrick’s Public Service Pensions Bill amendment, which allows ministers to stop local authorities from making investment decisions that conflict with UK foreign policy. 

The amendment was widely viewed as an effort to bypass the Supreme Court which ruled against government plans to prohibit local government pension schemes from divestment from companies complicit with Israeli occupation. 

In the United States, the Supreme Court has recently decided not to review a law that penalises boycotting Israel in the state of Arkansas, leaving in place a lower court’s decision to uphold the measure. 

This law mirrors legislation in dozens of US states that have approved measures to combat the pro-Palestinian BDS movement.