Tories continue with plans to outlaw BDS movement

The Boycott, Divestments & Sanctions Movement (BDS) in Britain aims to build economic and political pressure on Israel to end its unjust oppression of the Palestinian people. It evolved from similar campaign strategies that were successfully implemented against Apartheid South Africa.

It uses: Boycotts, targeting specific Israeli businesses, sporting, cultural and academic institutions; Divestment, urging inevstors to withdraw all investments from the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid; and finally, Sanctions, pressuring governments not to aid or assist the state of Israel in anyway shape or form.

Tory MP, Robert Jenrick, said this week that the government will, “In the following months, be working to outlaw BDS in the UK.” Jenrick, who previously served as communities minister before being removed by Johnson in September, is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Jenrick made this statement at an online conference hosted by the Leadership Dialogue Institute think tank. Founded in 2009 at the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, the think tank states that it owes its success to “its readiness to avoid political correctness.”

Jenrick told the conference that a Bill targeting the BDS Movement could be introduced as early as Spring 2022. In their 2019 general election manifesto, the Tories pledged to impose a ban on councils and other public bodies using BDS tactics, but Jenrick’s comments today could suggest that they plan to impose even stricter legislation banning the movement altogether.

This is extremely worrying news, but is not unsurprising when much of the liberal-left has abandoned BDS tactics out of fear from being accused of anti-semitism. Labour leader, Kier Starmer, has explicitly said that the Labour Party does not support BDS, despite nearly two-thirds of the membership calling for its introduction. 

Discussing the potential ban on BDS, Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal said: “This is the latest in a line of measures by this government suppressing core civic freedoms — this time with a move whose only intention is the prevent a state practising apartheid from being held to account. The proposed law will be resisted by all of those dedicated to upholding international law and protecting core democratic freedoms.”

This potential legislative shift represents yet another attack on our democratic freedoms in Britain. Not only this, but it highlights how much ground has been lost in the ongoing culture war over Israel. Thanks to the capitulations of various Labour leaders, we are now in a far worse position than we have been previously. 

This is the logical conclusion to the continued attacks by the Israeli lobby who have successfully managed to convince much of society that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are comparable, or even interchangeable. Any attempts to implement this legislation must and will be resisted by all parts of our movement, less we condemn ourselves to failure.

Peter Stoddart

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