UK Parliament bans public bodies from boycotting Israel

Local councils and government agencies will also be prohibited from imposing economic sanctions on countries not sanctioned by the national government.

UK MPs have voted to ban public bodies from boycotting Israel and other countries, despite scores of Conservative MPs not backing the bill, some of whom said the ban was illiberal and others that it would hamper action against China.

The government won a vote on Monday night on the economic activity of public bodies bill, despite the opposition of Tory backbenchers, after Labour abstained on the vote.

Israel was singled out as a key example during the debate in discussion over the vote. Communities Secretary Michael Gove said, “The bill affirms the important principle that UK foreign policy is a matter for the UK government. It ensures local authorities focus their efforts on serving residents, not directing their resources inefficiently. And critically, it protects minorities, especially Jewish communities, against campaigns that harm community cohesion and fuel antisemitism.”

Gove has long been a critic of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which campaigns for organisations to cut economic ties with Israel in protest over its treatment of Palestinians. Ministers have criticised two councils – Leicester and Lancaster, both of which have Labour as the largest party – for boycotting Israeli goods.

Labour tried unsuccessfully to block a vote on the bill before abstaining on the vote itself, allowing the measure to pass by 268 votes to 70. While just two Conservatives – William Wragg and Crispin Blunt – voted against the government, 84 Tories abstained from voting.

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MPs vote to ban public bodies from boycotting Israel and other countries (Guardian)

UK anti-BDS bill ignites criticism from both Tory and Labour MPs (Haaretz)  

Photo: UK MP Michael Gove spoke out against allowing Israel boycotts (Lucy North/PA Wire)