In a disappointing move that curtails British councils’ autonomy over international relations, the UK government recently introduced a bill that seeks to ban boycotts on Israeli goods. This legislation — officially called the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill — stifles efforts to promote social justice and solidarity for Muslims in Palestine. 
In comments provided to The Telegraph, Michael Gove, the cabinet minister responsible for local government and the bill’s sponsor, has ludicrously argued that boycotting goods from Israel contributes to “appalling anti-Semitic rhetoric and abuse”. 
Israel is NOT a Jewish state
It is evident that the government’s agenda and the legislation it aims to implement, ignore the legitimate concerns and moral imperative behind supporting the Ummah in Palestine and condemning the illegal development of settler colonies on occupied Muslim land in the region.
Moreover, the government’s bill seeks to paint Israel as a Jewish state, whilst the state itself is secular and has no official religion. 
Nevertheless, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has boldly claimed,
“It is simply wrong that public bodies have been wasting taxpayers’ time and money pursuing their own foreign policy agenda. The UK must have a consistent approach to foreign policy, set by the UK government.” 
While Gove’s remarks on a coherent foreign policy and saving taxpayers’ money may sound logical, the key point is that they were made under the guise of attacking Palestinians and the growing effectiveness of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Furthermore, it reveals the stark hypocrisy that exists between support for Palestine and support for Ukraine, where the latter’s cause against the Russian invasion has been endorsed and celebrated by the British government under successive leaders.
Beyond solidarity with the broader Ummah, it is clear that the proposed bill undermines the rights and freedoms granted to British elected public councils to independently legislate and implement local policies.
As such, the bill is yet another example of the growing overreach of the government and its rising interference in regional and local matters.
Background on bill and tensions at devolved level
The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill was initially outlined in the Queen’s Speech back in 2022, following a commitment made in the 2019 Conservative general election manifesto. 
The accompanying documentation released with last year’s speech emphasised the government’s stance of “zero toleration” for discrimination that fuels division among communities. It cited instances where motions were passed by Lancaster City Council in 2021 and 2014 to support boycott campaigns and divest from Israeli settlements. 
If the legislation is ultimately enacted, ministers would have the authority to investigate suspected violations of the ban. Public bodies found to be in breach could face significant fines and penalties.
This heavy-handed approach threatens the independence of local and regional councils, suppressing their voices and hindering the ability to exercise agency in matters of international significance.
Historically, councils such as Leicester, Swansea, and Gwynedd had passed motions to boycott produce from:
“…illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, until such time as Israel complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian-occupied territories.” 
These actions were driven by a commitment to justice and adherence to international law, rather than an unwarranted blanket boycott of Israel.
Labour’s continued pandering to Zionist lobby
The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, is clear in his opposition to the BDS movement.
Since his election as the head of the Labour party in 2020, Starmer has made overtures to the Zionist lobby in the UK.
He once declared,
“I support Zionism without qualification.” 
Indeed, under his leadership, Labour has firmly tilted in support of Israel and its illegal occupation of Palestine.
And in a move to strengthen his power and to entrench his position in the party, Starmer has purged Labour of its left-wing membership — many of whom are staunch proponents of Palestine — under the pretext of combating false accusations of “anti-Semitism”.
Unlike his successor, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has continually expressed his support for Palestine and has advocated for targeted action against illegal settler colonies in the occupied West Bank.
When elected leader in 2015, Corbyn endorsed key elements of the BDS movement and promised to impose a two-way arms embargo on Israel, if he were to become British Prime Minister. 
Take a stand!
As the disastrous bill proceeds through the Houses of Parliament, we must take every opportunity to raise awareness of the clear dangers of it being passed.
Consider writing to your local MP by simply clicking on the button below, entering in your postcode, and clicking “Send a message”.
Also, check out the dedicated webpage by our brothers and sisters at Friends of al-Aqsa, where they offer further information regarding the bill.
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 Charbit, Denis (2014). “Israel’s Self-Restrained Secularism from the 1947 Status Quo Letter to the Present”. In Berlinerblau, Jacques; Fainberg, Sarah; Nou, Aurora (eds.). Secularism on the Edge: Rethinking Church-State Relations in the United States, France, and Israel. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 167–169. ISBN978-1-137-38115-6.