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UK government seeks to overturn BDS victory in court

May 17, 2018 at 11:51 am

BDS rally [McGill Daily/Flickr]

The UK is appealing a High Court ruling that determined that the British government acted improperly by prohibiting local councils from taking part in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The appeal, scheduled to take place today, seeks to overturn a ruling from June last year, which found that the government cannot restrict Local Government Pension Schemes from boycotting foreign nations and UK defence companies.

The lawsuit, pursued by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), came after the Department for Communities and Local Government released guidance in 2016, specifically aimed at curtailing divestment campaigns against Israeli and international firms implicated in Israel’s violations of international law.

The guidance was issued despite a public consultation indicating that 98 per cent of respondents thought this was the wrong thing to do. Pension holders would have been forced into investing in companies that are complicit in human rights abuses contrary to their conscience and beliefs.

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The hearing today will mark the beginning of proceedings as the government seeks to overturn the ruling and effectively force local councils to comply with state guidance, and invest pension funds into Israeli firms.

Yesterday, PSC representatives condemned the government’s attempt to appeal the ruling.

The actions this week by Israel in Gaza and the US in Jerusalem demonstrate how misguided the Government’s appeal is. In a democracy it must be legal for local councils and pension funds to have the right to choose to invest ethically

Hugh Lanning, chair of PSC, said in statement.

The sentiment was echoed by PSC Director Ben Jamal: “Local democracy and the right to freedom of expression and conscience are all undermined by these attempts by the government to prevent active disagreement with the UK’s foreign policy.”

“Though we are confident we will succeed again and that our victory will be upheld, it is troubling that the government continues to introduce guidance such as this in an attempt to delegitimise the peaceful and historic tactic of BDS,” he concluded.

The UK government has attempted to ban public institutions from complying with the BDS movement, but such plans have so far been unsuccessful due to the work of numerous pro-Palestinian civic organisations.

Timeline: International attempts to boycott BDS