UK government to present bill barring local councils from boycotting Israeli goods

UK government to present bill barring local councils from boycotting Israeli goods
The new bill, to be presented on Monday, will pave the way to investigate those suspected of breaching the legislation to be investigated and potentially fined.
2 min read
18 June, 2023
The BDS group will likely be impacted by the new bill set to ban councils from boycotting Israeli products [Getty[

The UK government will reportedly introduce a bill on Monday aimed at stopping local councils and other public bodies from imposing a ban on Israeli products, The Telegraph said on Sunday.

Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary in charge of the bill, said the legislation is set to prevent councils from carrying out "their own international relations policy".

The proposed legislation is set to impact the likes of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a leading Palestinian NGO which encourages the boycott of Israeli products and prevents entities from doing business with Israel.

The NGO also seeks to pressure Israel to adhere to international law via lobbying and campaigning, with an aim to put an end to Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories.

The legislation appeared in the Conservative Party’s manifesto during the 2019 elections campaign, and also appeared during Queen Elizabeth’s last annual speech in 2022 before she died aged 96. 

Gove, who is also the minister of Intergovernmental Relations, told The Telegraph that a boycott of Israeli products leads to "appalling anti-Semitic rhetoric and abuse", and that it is "simply wrong that public bodies have been wasting taxpayers’ time and money pursuing their own foreign policy agenda."


He further added that different policies in the country "undermine" the UK’s foreign policy and that a new bill is required to put a halt to such disruptive and inconsistent policies.

Gove’s comments are a likely reference to the Leicester, Swansea and Gwynedd councils who passed motions before 2019 to boycott produce from "illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, until such time as Israel complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian-occupied territories".

Lancaster City Council also green-lit a similar motion in 2021.

Under the proposed legislation, ministers will be able to conduct investigations into those suspected of breaching the ban. Public bodies would also face "significant fines" should they violate the new rules.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) director, Ben Jamal, told The New Arab last month that the law, if passed, "will have a chilling effect on all campaigns for social and political change".

"The restriction of the right to use boycott and divestment tactics is an erosion of core democratic rights – and the breadth of the groups opposing this bill reflects that", he said.