‘Don’t give the green light to further violence and violations of international law,’ Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) urges, as the government prepares to return repressive anti-boycott bill to Parliament
- The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) bill, or anti-boycott bill, has been scheduled for report stage in the House of Commons on Wednesday 25 October. In a departure from usual practice, no third reading vote has yet been timetabled.
- The anti-boycott bill aims to prevent public bodies from deciding how to spend or invest based on ethical considerations. The government has repeatedly made clear that its principal aim is to block campaigns in support of Palestinian human rights and financial decisions influenced by public opposition to Israel’s well-documented violations of international law.
- A broad coalition of more than 70 civil society groups – including national trade unions, charities, NGOs, faith, climate justice, and human rights groups – has already called on the British government to abandon the bill, citing concerns over democratic rights of freedom of expression and to advocate for social and climate justice. They have made clear their view that it is a responsibility to break ties with companies contributing to abuses of rights and violations of international law in occupied Palestine and anywhere else where such acts occur.
- The anti-boycott bill singles out the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’ and ‘Occupied Golan Heights’ by name, alongside Israel, as territories that the law permanently protects from boycott and divestment initiatives in public bodies, with no room for current or future exceptions. If passed, it would be the first time a piece of British law will require Israel and the territories it illegally occupies to be treated in the same way – which would signal a departure from decades of British foreign policy and international consensus, including United Nations resolutions.
PSC is alarmed by the government’s decision to bring the anti-boycott bill back to parliament this week. With the 2.3 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip facing ongoing attack and a humanitarian catastrophe, the message sent by this step is the opposite of what is required.
Since 7 October 1400 Israelis and more than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed. More than 2,000 of the Palestinians killed are children. International scholars and Palestinian human rights organisations are warning of the possibility of genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Urgent action is needed to deter and prevent the crime of genocide and stop further catastrophic loss of life. By futureproofing protection for Israel from measures of accountability, and by tearing up decades of British foreign policy, bringing forward this bill at this time seems calculated to give a green light to further escalation rather than the urgent de-escalation that is needed.
Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK (PSC), says,
‘Against the backdrop of escalating violence, governments around the world should be promoting alternatives by calling for an immediate ceasefire and the rigorous implementation of international law. Right now, it is more important than ever that peaceful and democratic avenues to pursue political change are maintained. Instead, Michael Gove seems determined to shield Israel from any kind of criticism, or calls for action to address its systematic, decades-long violations of international law and human rights. He has deliberately timed this debate to stir up tension and further demonise those calling for an end to violence and respect for human rights. In doing so he is also ignoring public opinion with polls showing that 76% of Britons want an immediate ceasefire. The government should start listening to public opinion, not try to silence it through smear tactics and repressive measures that will only serve to undermine freedom of expression and do lasting damage to our democratic process.’