A vote against the BDS Bill is a vote to allow the boycott of Jews

There are no shades of grey here - this is an issue of principle


Demonstrators hold a placard urging the international community to take action against Israel's settlement policy in the occupied territories as left-wing Israeli and foreign peace activists join Palestinians in a protest in the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on November 04, 2009. According to Israeli radio, about 200 people protestested in Sheikh Jarrah against what they call the "Judaisation" of Arab east Jerusalem and the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in the Jerusalem area. BDS is a campaign calling for "boycott, deinvestment and sanctions" against Israel. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images)

July 03, 2023 13:46

Let’s make one thing clear from the start. The BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – campaign is antisemitic. No ambiguity, no ifs, not buts. It singles out the world’s only Jewish state and demands that it – that Jews, in other words – is boycotted.

The more naïve of those who push BDS might like to think they are somehow elevated people pursuing an elevated cause, but they are not. They are no less antisemitic in their actions than skinheads and extremist Muslims who believe Jews are vermin.

That, in short, is why the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill matters. By removing the ability of local councils and organisations to set their own foreign policy, it prevents them from acting in support of a campaign which seeks to boycott Jews.

There is no room for shades of grey here. You either think it’s fine to boycott Jews – in which case you will oppose the Bill – or you don’t, in which case you will support it.

That’s why tonight’s second reading is so important. It’s a vote on the principle of the bill. Those who intend to oppose that principle are saying they have no issue with boycotts of Jews. You can pretend your vote means something else, but we see you.

Which is one reason why Labour’s opposition – not initially couched as opposition but as a ‘reasoned amendment’, tabled in the name of Keir Starmer - is so important to note. Sir Keir talks a good game of making Labour a fit home for Jews, and he has tackled some of the more egregious antisemitism in his party. But when push comes to shove, and he is presented with a clear test of his commitment to the cause of tackling antisemitism, he is on the wrong side.

This Bill is vital. As Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid sought to bar the Local Government Pension Scheme implementing BDS. The High Court ruled against this so, if BDS was to be blocked, the law had to be changed.

It’s important to recognise that tonight’s vote is the Second Reading. If there are improvements that need to be made to the drafting, they can be done at Committee stage. This is a vote on the principle – and as such, anyone who votes against it is voting in favour of allowing BDS. For shame.

July 03, 2023 13:46

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