update deskAntisemitism

British ministers to advance bill to stop councils boycotting Israel

British ministers are set to table a bill in the coming weeks that would stop local councils from boycotting foreign countries.

Protesters in Berlin hold a Palestinian flag and the initials of the anti-Israel BDS movement while then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Germany in August 2019. Credit: Israel Hayom.
Protesters in Berlin hold a Palestinian flag and the initials of the anti-Israel BDS movement while then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Germany in August 2019. Credit: Israel Hayom.

British Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove is due to push forward the U.K. government’s long-anticipated plan to prevent further boycotts against Israel, reported Britain’s Financial Times.

The bill is aimed at preventing local councils and public bodies from adopting “their own foreign policy,” and stopping local authority pension funds from backing BDS sanctions against U.K. companies connected with Israel.

Gove has stated in the past that he believes that the BDS campaign is designed for only one purpose—to attack and delegitimize the State of Israel and the very idea that there should be a Jewish state at all. 

The proposed legislation was originally mentioned in Queen Elizabeth’s speech at the opening of parliament in 2022.

The bill is also part of the Conservative government’s efforts to clamp down on rising antisemitism in the United Kingdom.

ELNET UK, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening relations between Europe and Israel based on “shared democratic values and strategic interest”, expressed support for the advancement of the bill.

“ELNET UK fully supports attempts to address and curtail antisemitism. In view of the violent narrative and ideology pushed by BDS, such a move by the United Kingdom would certainly be welcome—and would bring the U.K. into closer alignment with other European countries who have taken a strong stand against BDS.

“We believe that combating antisemitism in all its forms, and standing against those who seek to delegitimize and harm the State of Israel, is a moral imperative,” said ELNET UK Executive Director Joan Ryan.

Members of the Jewish community and grassroots activists have welcomed the bill. According to analyst of UK-Israel relations and host of “Jonny Gould’s Jewish State” Jonny Gould, “BDS boycotts Jewish people using Jewish self-determination, the State of Israel, as its cover. We all know multiple countries who exact egregious behavior on their own citizens, yet BDS targets Israel exceptionally. It blames a two-sided war on ‘Jewish colonialism.’

“Sometimes Israel’s government does and should warrant international criticism, but BDS doesn’t do that. It blanket bombs any individual Israeli policy or government. And fundamentally, its solution is to scrap the right to Jewish self-determination and replace it with Palestinian conquest.

“Israel and the U.K. are enjoying the best relations since 1948. And this helps build an understanding around the world that Israel is here to stay”.

The proposed legislation has been criticized by left-leaning organizations and media, as well as student bodies and civil society groups, who accuse the government of trying to curtail free speech.

Ties between the United Kingdom and Israel have strengthened significantly in recent years, and there is even talk of a possible visit to Israel by King Charles, which would make him the first reigning British monarch to visit the Jewish state.

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