UK Government to ban public bodies from engaging with BDS

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Campaigners hold placards and banners that read: "Defend the right to demonstrate against apartheid – Join this movement"; "BDS is here to stay"; Our money, our choices"; "Defend Local Democracy". Credit: London Palestine Action

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ban public bodies from engaging in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against companies, governments, and institutions lending support to Israel’s violence against Palestinians, the UK’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues Eric Pickles has announced.

Responding to the news, Ryvka Barnard, Senior Militarism and Security Campaigner at War on Want, said:

“The announcement that the new Conservative government will pass a law making it illegal for public bodies to engage with boycotts, divestment and sanctions, is an early warning of where this government will stand on human rights. Boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns have long been used to protest injustice. From the Bristol bus boycotts in the 1960s over the refusal to employ Black or Asian bus crews, to divestment and sanctions campaigns used to pressure the South African apartheid regime, BDS tactics are a part of the protest history of this country. The call from Palestinian civil society for people of conscience to use BDS tactics to end corporate and government complicity in Israel’s apartheid control over Palestinians is a part of this great legacy, and has been supported by notable human rights advocates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“Israel’s illegal settlements and its militarised repression of Palestinians is not only immoral, it is illegal under international law and according to UK policy. Despite this, the UK continues to sell arms to Israel, and to conduct business as usual with Israel’s far-right government. Where our own government has failed to act in accordance with its own policies and international law, UK citizens have stepped up, using BDS tactics to push for an end to violence and abuse, and for equality, justice, and freedom for all.

“Across the globe, restrictive policies are eroding the rights of ordinary citizens and civil society groups to stand up for human rights. In the UK, the Trade Union Act, the Lobbying Act, and the repressive Prevent agenda already undermine the rights of people to protest. This latest proposal will further weaken our rights.”