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UK moves step closer to banning BDS with 'chilling' bill in Queen's Speech

11-05-2022 11:27

The New Arab

 

The UK moved a step closer to banning economic and cultural boycotts of Israel with chilling anti-BDS legislation included in the Queen's Speech - a move slammed by pro-Palestine activists in the country.

 

The proposed legislation was included in an address given by Prince Charles to parliament, when the monarch traditionally reads out a speech prepared by the UK government outlining its plans for the year.

 

Prince Charles announced that legislation to "prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion" would be prepared by the government.

 

The BBC confirmed that the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill will prevent public bodies from imposing sanctions on foreign countries.

 

This appears aimed at restricting support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which promotes peaceful civil action against Israel due to its occupation of the Palestinian Territories, the siege on Gaza, and apartheid policies against Palestinians.

 

BDS has been widely supported by Palestinian activists in the UK and is seen as a key tool of non-violent resistance to Israeli oppression.

 

We will be following the latest updates on the bill in this liveblog and on The New Arab website.

 

That concludes our liveblog coverage for today, but The New Arab will continue to publish more content on the proposed anti-BDS bill on our website over the coming hours and days.

 

For now, Ben Jamal of the PSC has written this op-ed calling for pro-Palestine supporters to turn out in their thousands in London this weekend to mark the anniversary of the Nakba.

 

Pro-Palestine activist movements in the UK have condemned the proposed anti-BDS law. 

 

Some of the groups shared their views with The New Arab in this article, pledging to fight the bill before it becomes law.

 

The pro-Palestine Friends of al-Aqsa activist group has released a statement condemning the planned legislation.

 

"FOA is extremely concerned by the reference to “legislation [which] will prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion” in the Queen’s Speech today. In a free society public bodies must have the right to make ethical choices," the group said.

 

"The right to boycott, divest from and sanction those who abuse human rights and fail to comply with international law must be upheld. FOA remains committed to protecting the right of public bodies to make ethical choices through BDS."

 
 
Pro-Palestine Jewish groups in the UK have been campaigning against the proposed legislation, including a rally over the weekend in London.

 

Jewish Solidarity Action held a protest at Westminster Bridge near parliament on Sunday morning against the anti-BDS bill.

 

Other UK Jewish groups, such as Na'amod have also voiced opposition to the outlawing of BDS.

 

 

The UK's Palestine Solidarity Campaign has issued a strongly-worded statement against the anti-BDS bill and called on activists to resist its transition to law.

 

"Queen's Speech confirms that the UK Gov will pursue its ‘anti-boycott bill’ to prevent public bodies from deciding not to do business with companies abusing human rights and our planet. This must be opposed!" the group wrote on Twitter.

 

 

 

The New Arab has already looked at the impact this legislation could have on pro-Palestine activism in the UK.

 

Former Labour MP Martin Linton said the touted anti-BDS law is inspired by anti-BDS legislation in the US.

 

He suggested that the Conservative government might still face challenges in implementing its favoured anti-BDS law, even if it were included in the Queen's Speech.

 

"You might think that, as we do not have a written constitution in the UK, this cannot happen over here. But you’d be wrong. The UK’s Supreme Court has already blocked the government’s first attempt to ban BDS," he wrote.

 

Despite this, the suggested law is yet another challenge pro-Palestine activists in the UK.

  

 

The UK government is preparing legislation to ban public bodies supporting the BDS movement.

 

Proposed legislation announced in the Queen's Speech on Tuesday said that the Conservative government would "prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion".

 

"The Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill will stop public bodies [from] imposing their own boycotts on foreign countries," the BBC reported.

 

The chilling law would essentially ban public bodies from supporting the peaceful BDS movement, which aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law and end its illegal occupation of the West Bank through the promotion of boycotts and sanctions.

 


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