Anti-apartheid organizations based in the United Kingdom have urged the country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson to scrap the recently introduced anti-BDS bill that would restrict the right of public bodies to launch boycott campaigns against the Israeli occupation.
Led by the UK-based Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), the groups submitted a petition to Downing Street, the official residence and the office of the British Prime Minister, urging him to scrap the anti-BDS bill and instead protect the #RightToBoycott in the UK.
The group includes the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK, the Stop the War Coalition, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Amos Trust, Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine and Conservative Friends of Palestine.
“The right of public bodies to boycott and divest from those who abuse human rights and fail to comply with international law must be upheld,” read the submitted petition. “In a free society, public bodies must retain the right to make ethical choices”.
“This is worrying legislation” said Shamiul Joarder, the Chairman of Public Affairs at FOA.
“Public bodies must retain the right to boycott and divest from those complicit in Israeli apartheid. This is a first step towards criminalizing the individual right to BDS in the UK, and part of a wider crackdown on anything that opposes government policy, as seen by the Public Order Bill which allows police to shut down protests that are ‘too noisy’,” Joarder added.
In May, during the Queen’s Speech opening of Parliament, Prince Charles said the government will introduce “legislation [that] will prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion.”
“The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill will stop public bodies [from] imposing their own boycotts on foreign countries,” the BBC reported at that time.
Several pro-Palestine groups and activists have slammed the announcement, saying such move is apparently aimed at restricting support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to pressure ‘Israel’ to comply with international law and end its illegal occupation of Palestine through the promotion of boycotts and sanctions.
They also said the move would prevent public bodies from making ethical decisions to boycott and divest from firms complicit in Israeli apartheid against Palestinians.