update deskBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

UK anti-BDS bill threatens fines for boycotting Israel

A bill, which Michael Gove, leveling up, housing and communities secretary, introduced has ignited a heated debate about the right to boycott.

Official portrait of Michael Gove, U.K. secretary of state for housing, communities and local government. Photo by Simon Dawson/No. 10 Downing Street.
Official portrait of Michael Gove, U.K. secretary of state for housing, communities and local government. Photo by Simon Dawson/No. 10 Downing Street.

Michael Gove, UK secretary of state for leveling up, housing and communities, introduced legislation earlier this week that imposes major fines on public bodies that try to boycott Israel.

If the bill becomes law, UK public bodies, such as local councils and public universities, would be prohibited from making any “economic decision” related to procurement or investment if it reflects “political or moral disapproval of foreign states.”

Following the bill’s presentation at the House of Commons, Gove stated: “It is simply wrong that public bodies have been wasting taxpayers’ time and money pursuing their own foreign policy agenda. The UK must have a consistent approach to foreign policy, set by the UK Government.”

Boycott Israel (BDS) campaigns “not only undermine the UK’s foreign policy but lead to appalling antisemitic rhetoric and abuse,” he added. “That is why we have taken this decisive action to stop these disruptive policies once and for all.”

The bill primarily targets attempts to boycott Israel, but it would apply to other countries, such as China. 

The government remains “strongly committed to the UK’s long and proud tradition of free speech” and stressed that the ban “will not apply to individuals or private organizations, where they are not carrying out public functions.”

The penalties for non-compliance have not yet been specified.

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