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UK to ban public institutions from boycotting Israeli products


By Bao Yen - February 16, 2016
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Under the new British government procurement guidelines, public institutions and local councils are banned from boycotting Israeli products, the Guardian reported.

The controversial regulations, set to be announced this week during a visit to Israel by Cabinet Officer minister Matthew Hancock, will prohibit publicly funded bodies in Britain the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services provided by companies linked to illegal trades of arms, fuel fossils and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

 

Institutions contravening the regulations could face severe punishments.

The boycotting ban, according to Hancock, aims to end "divisive town hall boycotts", expressing concerns that boycotting can undermine community relations and fuel anti-Semitism.

Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, called the move, "a gross attack on our democratic freedoms and the independence of public bodies from Government interference.” Amnesty International, British Councillors, local government experts and the British Labour Party also highly condemned the guideline.

“The Government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy," said the spokesman for the Labour party's leader Jeremy Corbyn. He continued, “People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds."

The new rules target local councils, universities and possibly even some students' unions, preventing these groups from making ethical and conscious investment decisions or buying certain products.

In a public statement, Rafeef Ziadah, UK spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee said, "Far from thwarting the growing public support for the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality, these measures simply shine a spotlight on the UK’s deepening support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and underline the need for solidarity campaigning."

There have been several cases in which British council's passed policies to boycott Israeli goods produced in Palestinian territories, such as the examples of Leicester City, Tower Hamlets, Swansea or Bristol.

 

In 2014, the Scottish government also released a notice to local councils that "strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements." French multinational water, energy and waste management firm Veolia also announced last April that they were shutting down their operations in Israel.

“We stand in support of all groups and communities bearing the brunt of the conservative government’s neoliberal agenda and it’s all out attacks on democracy and basic rights," Ziadah added.


 

 

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