On February the 17th the government announced new plans to ban boycotts of Israeli goods and services by councils and other public bodies. The governments plan to criminalise boycotts is an attack on local democracy in its efforts to protect Israel from the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Since 2005, Palestinians have called for a nonviolent boycott of Israel until it is held accountable for its outright violations of international law. Over the years the international community has supported this call and it has gained popular support amongst people from all walks of life. The rapid growth of the BDS movement has created a growing fear amongst Israel and its supporters. Late last year, the Israeli government committed £17 million towards its new anti-BDS task force highlighting its fear of the BDS movement.
Last week, Board of Deputies president, Jonathan Arkush travelled up to Leicester to meet with Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby voicing his concern over Leicester city councils boycott of Israeli settlement goods. Arkush stated that a boycott of products “from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank” is “damaging and destructive.”
However, the settlements themselves are damaging and destructive as they deprive Palestinians the right to self-determination and serve as a huge obstacle towards peace. They are also illegal under international law and have been widely condemned by the international community, including the UK and United States. Therefore, the decision was not “ill-informed” or “one-sided” as Arkush argues, but rather, the council’s decision is based upon international law and a moral conscious.
FOA spoke to Leicester councillor Mohammed Dawood in December about the move, which took place last year. “We put forward a motion not to procure services from illegally Occupied Territories as apposed to the Israeli state. At the end of the day, it is being illegally occupied so we aren’t doing anything wrong. We should be doing something to support the Palestinians and so the motion was put forward,” he said.
Although the government is trying to stifle political boycotts on public bodies, Israeli Apartheid Week, which launched in the UK last week, has shown to be a testimony of the strength of the non-violent BDS movement across UK universities.