Boris Johnson will attempt to pass a law banning local councils from joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the UK’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues has announced.
Eric Pickles said the movement was “antisemitic and should be treated as such” during a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s conference in Jerusalem on Sunday.
He said the new law would not allow public bodies to work with those who boycott, divest from or sanction Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.
It comes after Donald Trump, the US president, signed an executive order effectively definition Judaism as a nationality, not just a religion – in a move which could suppress the BDS movement.
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PDS), told The Independent: “The campaign for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) seeks to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian rights and of international law.
“Failing to take action to hold Israel to account makes one complicit. Israel has been engaged in a global campaign to have laws prohibiting BDS introduced so that it can act with impunity.”
Mr Jamal added: “Unsurprisingly a Conservative government that seeks to ally itself with Donald Trump and his far-right agenda is following suit.
“All those who believe in international law, human rights and freedom of expression must vigorously oppose this legislation.”
Last month’s Conservative Party manifesto included a pledge to ban local councils from boycotting products from foreign countries.
“We will ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries,” the manifesto said. “These undermine community cohesion.”
The bill will likely be announced during the Queen’s Speech on Thursday, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The BDS movement has called on businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land.
It has urged local councils to divest their pension funds from companies accused of being complicit in the occupation.
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