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Action Alert: Anti-BDS Bill

Monday June 19 2023


Use the template below to write to your local MP explaining why the Anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Bill, presented to parliament today and which aims to ban public bodies from imposing boycotts on Israeli products, is harmful to freedom of speech in Britain. ALSO, attend your MP’s constituency office and in-person ask them to oppose this anti-democratic proposed law.

BDS is a global, non-violent movement that calls for people and companies to hold Israel to account for its systematic violations of international law and gross violations of Palestinian human rights through economic and cultural boycotts.

The government is now tabling a Bill in parliament to stop local councils and student bodies from supporting the BDS campaign.

The bill marks a clear and present danger to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, the cornerstone of all healthy democracies, as enshrined in Article 10 of the Human Rights Act of 1998.

Please use the letter template below to ask your local MP to oppose this flawed new legislation. NOTE: PARLIAMENTARY SOFTWARE DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY FORWARD COPIED EMAILS, USE THE TEMPLATE TO WRITE YOUR OWN UNIQUE EMAIL.

Dear ____

I am writing to inform you of my deep concerns about the anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Bill presented to Parliament on Monday, June 19 2023. This bill, if it is allowed to pass, will mark a dark day in British democracy. Firstly, locally elected councils will no longer be able to boycott the procurement of goods produced in Israeli settlements, or call for the boycott of those goods, even if this is in sync with the will of the constituencies whom they are representing. This will have a chilling effect on the inalienable right of British citizens to both stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and to challenge the British government over its uncritical support of Israel. Article 10 of the 1998 Human Rights Act says that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression.” There are valid concerns that, should it pass, this bill could result in discrimination against people for their belief that Israel should be held accountable for its occupation of Palestine, thus violating this sacrosanct human right.

Despite the successful track record of BDS campaigns in bringing an end to injustice and oppression in places like apartheid South Africa, the government appears bent on framing the effort as being driven by antisemitism. Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, has claimed that BDS has driven “appalling anti-Semitic rhetoric and abuse.” Indeed, any such behaviour toward Jewish people should be wholeheartedly condemned. However, to suggest that this is the underlying motive of the BDS campaign, is the height of disingenuousness.

The BDS campaign is aimed at holding Israel to account for its industrial-scale human rights violations against the people of occupied Palestine through cultural and economic boycotts. As you are aware, Israeli settlements are recognised unanimously as illegal under international law, as enshrined in multiple United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. The UK government itself has maintained the illegality of these settlements. Indeed, former Conservative party Foreign Secretary, William Hague, made it emphatically clear in December 2012 when he said that Israeli settlements are “illegal under International law.” Therefore, it makes little political, not to mention moral, sense for publicly funded bodies to be procuring goods and services from these same settlements.

Finally, the long-term implications of the anti-BDS bill for issues beyond Israel-Palestine must also be considered. For example, many campaigners have expressed fear that it could be used to quash calls for divesting from fossil fuel companies, therefore having a knock-on effect for efforts to transition toward renewable energies. Others have warned that foreign regimes, such as the Chinese Communist Party, could see it as an avenue for silencing dissent in Britain over its oppression of the Uyghur Muslims. Thus, it must be considered that this anti-BDS Bill could mark the beginning of a slippery slope toward crackdowns on freedom of expression in other areas.

Nevertheless, the current government appears to be willing to risk all of the aforementioned, not lest our freedom of speech, in the name of protecting Israel from legitimate criticism. Instead, the government should see that BDS actually aligns with its own position, professed in the chamber of the United Nations Security Council, that those settlements are illegal under international law. I therefore call upon you to stand up for international law, freedom of speech at home and the rights of the Palestinian people, which have been violated for far too long, by opposing this undemocratic anti-BDS Bill.

Yours faithfully,

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