The recently passed amendment to the public service pension schemes proposed by former Tory minister Robert Jenrick has been slammed as a “deliberate assault on the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement.”
The controversial amendment passed with 296 MPs in favour and 81 against. It was co-sponsored by three Labour MPs despite an instruction to abstain. Twenty-two other Labour MPs broke the whip to vote against a ban on boycotts of Israel in public pension funds. Those Labour MPs who defied the whip to abstain, joined the SNP and Liberal Democrats to vote against the amendment.
While the BDS campaign against Israel was not explicitly mentioned in the wording of the bill, Jenrick made clear during the parliamentary debate that the policy centred around the issue. “The BDS movement does absolutely nothing to advance the cause of peace,” Jenrick told MPs during the parliamentary debate. Prior to tabling the amendment, he wrote an article in the Times attacking BDS as anti-Semitic, saying that “you don’t have to look very hard to find those that are” racist towards Jews.
Critics have slammed the amendment as an attack on free speech and on people’s ability to make ethical investment decisions that do not contravene international law.
“This amendment is not only a direct attack on the Muslim community’s right to organise peacefully on the issue of self-determination, but also an attack on the freedom to campaign for any and all ethical investment,” said the Labour Muslim Network (LMN).
“LMN not only condemns this move by the Conservative government, but we also consider any attempts to outlaw BDS and other peaceful divestment campaigns on Muslim-Self determination as a breach of the Islamophobia definition and code of conduct passed last year by the Labour Party NEC.”
There are growing concerns that the proposed legislation could be broadened to impose an “absolute ban” on BDS in Britain. A similar stance has been taken by a number of states in the US.
“What we want to do is pass a piece of legislation here and I’m pretty confident that will be in the next legislative programme — the Queen’s speech as we call it — in the spring of next year which would outlaw BDS in the UK,” Jenrick is reported saying at during an online talk on 14 December by the Morning Star.
“Within a year or two we should really have an absolute ban on BDS which would really be a great step forwards.”