The British Parliament has approved a bill that prevents government bodies from boycotting Israel.
The Parliament overwhelmingly approved the bill with 268 votes in favor and 70 opposed, All Israel News reports. The bill forbids public bodies from imposing economic boycotts on countries that are not already sanctioned, giving particular protections to Israel.
Michael Gove, the official who advanced the bill, said it was aimed at fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement which stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanction. He argued the BDS movement is often accompanied by antisemitic discourse.
“(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 explained.
Britain’s government leaders have criticized the cities of Leicester and Lancaster for boycotting Israeli goods, The Guardian reports. Both areas represent substantial Labour Party stakeholders and that party tried to block the vote before abstaining, allowing the measure to pass.
The previous Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had supported boycotts targeting Jewish neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria, often referred to as the West Bank. But Labour’s current leader, Keir Starmer, has taken steps to root out BDS.
Critics contend that Gove’s bill is too broad.
“We recognize the problem that he says this bill is needed to tackle. It is therefore deeply frustrating that the government has introduced a bill that is so needlessly broad, with such sweeping draconian powers … that he is faced with genuine legitimate heartfelt opposition from his own benches,” argued Lisa Nandy, a secretary for the Labour Party’s Shadow Cabinet.
If passed, Israel would be the only country in the world that a British public body could not divest from.