UK facing court battle over right to BDS

Foreign minister Boris Johnson promoted economic ties in Jerusalem last week. (Israeli Goverment Press Office)

A court challenge against British restrictions on the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is going ahead, according to human rights campaigners.

The British government had undertaken to prevent local councils from using pension policies to protest against the arms trade and repressive regimes, particularly Israel.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is seeking a judicial review of the British government’s policies. The campaigners have been informed by a judge that the review can proceed “as soon as possible” after 1 April.

The campaigners are seeking to overturn changes to the rules on local authority pension schemes, announced by the British government in October 2015.

The Conservative government also published guidance in February last year that was intended to discourage the use of BDS tactics.

Publicly-funded bodies were told these amounted to a “BDS ban” – although closer reading of the text revealed this not to be the case.

But in June 2016, the first case to cite the “ban” failed in the British high court. The case – led by anti-Palestinian lawyers – targeted decisions by a number of local councils to support the BDS movement.

Attack on protest

The government tried to justify the October 2015 pension measures, claiming they aimed at stopping the “growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defense and Israeli firms.”

But speaking to The Financial Times, one top pension official accused the government of “ridiculous nannying”

He said that “the government should stop sticking its nose in. If a democratically elected council body wishes to pursue an investment strategy with money generated by council taxpayers, they should be able to.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said the judge had agreed the case was of “significant public importance.”

Ben Jamal, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s director, said the guidance on pension schemes “represents a wider attack on people’s rights to protest about Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, including via the promotion of the peaceful campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

The legal fight is being supported by War on War and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

The UK government’s increasingly open defense of Israel comes in the context of growing Israeli-backed efforts to restrict BDS activities across the world.

In the US, there has been a wave of laws aimed at punishing and silencing activists. But campaigners and human rights lawyers have fought back, often successfully drawing on constitutional protections to free speech.

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May's government is in effect telling local councils they may not refrain from investing in criminal enterprises. I can't believe that any court in the UK will uphold this principle. Further to that, I think that Israel is making a huge tactical error in pursuing a course of restricting and punishing the BDS movement through manipulation of various countries' legal systems. These actions invite litigation and risk potential adverse decisions which can only highlight the unacceptable nature of the Zionist regime. As well, the attendant coverage and public debate will certainly shift opinion in favour of those persons and groups targeted by unconstitutional measures. Most people don't care to be told that their freedom of speech and association must be abridged on behalf of a belligerent foreign power. In pursuing these measures, Israel and its political allies will see their support continue to decline.

So of course, I urge them to redouble their efforts in this regard.

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80% of Conservative MPs are members of "Conservative Friends of Israel" and about 25% of Labour MPs are "Labour Friends of Israel". So the Government doesn`t represent the People of the UK ,but the Fascist Government of Israel and it`s Lobbyists who are Bribeing our MPs. Fascists beleive "Might is Right"; same as Israel with Palestinians.

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We have been on the backfoot for far too long.
We have allowed Zionists to use the stench of "anti Semitism" to silence or at least mute our criticism.
We should all return to 1948 and read the research of the "new" Israeli historians particularly Professor Ilan Pappe. And once you read his research the subsequent events in Israel and Palestine make complete sense.
Watch how our opponents behave. If I write in the Zionist Guardian questioning the basic legitimacy of the state of Israel even in the most moderate terms, my post will be deleted.
The truth is that Israel has never been legitimate because Israel would not exist in its current form but for the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 indigenous inhabitants because they were not Jews.
Ethnic cleansing is racism and if you are a "friend" of a state founded on racism that makes you a racist.
That unfortunately means that a majority of the House of Commons and an utterly disgraceful number of Labour MPs are exposed as racists.
There can be no accommodation let alone friendship with Israel until there is a Palestinian right of return to Israel.
Forget entirely about "driving Jews into the sea", why should an American Jew who leaves a prosperous, secure life in America have priority over a Palestinian whose family had lived in what is now Israel for hundreds of years and has no other home or nationality ?
Forget entirely about a "two state solution" that is dead in the water if it was ever alive. We have to go for the lack of legitimacy and racism of Israel that was integral to the state from the very start and we should ask why half of our elected politicians are racists ?

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.