William Eichler 11 January 2024

‘Illiberal’ bill banning boycotts of Israel passes Commons

‘Illiberal’ bill banning boycotts of Israel passes Commons image
Image: Loredana Sangiuliano / Shutterstock.com.

A bill aimed at banning local authorities from boycotting Israel has passed the Commons despite being branded as ‘illiberal and draconian’.

The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill seeks to stop public bodies joining the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The BDS campaign aims to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians. The movement’s critics accuse it of antisemitism.

Known as the anti-BDS bill, the legislation passed by 282 to 235, with eight Conservative MPs voting against the legislation.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), said that boycotts by public bodies ‘undermine the UK’s foreign policy’ and ‘fuel division across our communities.’

‘This change delivers on the Government’s manifesto, stopping public bodies from wasting taxpayers’ money pursuing their own foreign policy agendas and ensuring that the UK speaks with one voice internationally,’ they added.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner criticised the bill as ‘deeply flawed’ saying that it equates Israel with the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights in ‘an unprecedented step.’

Former minister Kit Malthouse, one of the Tory rebels who voted against it, also told the Commons: ‘The fact we would be seeking to legislate against non-violent protest in such an illiberal and draconian way seems to be tragic at this particular point in time.’

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