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BDS: UK to pass law banning anti-Israel boycott, official says

Days after winning UK general election, Conservative Party says it will target BDS movement that rallies against Israel
A march calling for justice for Palestinians moves through the streets of central London (AFP/File photo)
Par MEE staff

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to introduce a new piece of legislation making it illegal for UK public bodies to work with those involved in the pro-Palestinian boycott campaign against Israel, the UK's special envoy for post-Holocaust issues has announced.

Boris Johnson's Tory Party manifesto vows to ban boycott campaigns

Eric Pickles, who is also the chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, called the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement "antisemitic" during a speech in Jerusalem on Sunday, adding it "should be treated as such".

"Antisemitism is an attack on the British way of life and British identity," he said.

The BDS movement, which has a long history of non-violence, says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime.

It has three primary objectives: the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and dismantling of Israel's illegal separation wall and settlements in the occupied West Bank, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and for the rights of Palestinian refugees to be upheld as stipulated by the United Nations. 

Support for the movement has grown enormously over the years, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters supporting the campaign, among many others.

According to the London-based Independent newspaper, Johnson is expected to list the anti-BDS motion as one of his government's priorities during the Queen's Speech on Thursday.

Last month, his Conservative Party manifesto included a pledge to ban local councils from boycotting products from foreign countries.

"We will ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries," the manifesto said. 

"These undermine community cohesion."

Johnson has long been a fierce opponent of BDS campaigns, telling the BBC in 2015 that he could "not think of anything more foolish" than boycotting Israel. 

The anti-BDS legislation is similar to legislation passed on the state level in the US. At least 28 American states have passed laws that either restrict or ban individuals or companies dealing in state contracts from boycotting Israel.

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