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Anti-BDS bill to shield Israel gives Russia ‘ammunition’ to accuse the UK of hypocrisy

July 11, 2023 at 2:28 pm

Michael Gove on August 31, 2022 [Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency]

A new bill introduced by the UK government, which is designed to shield Israel from boycotts, will have damaging consequences for the UK if the legislation went ahead in its current form, Number 10 was warned in a special legal advice.

Britain will not only find itself in breach of its international commitments, the advice warned, efforts to grant Israel special protection will also give Russia “ammunition” to accuse the UK of hypocrisy.

Details of the letter sent to Number 10 containing the legal advice was revealed yesterday by the BBC. The advice was issued by the foreign secretary’s office. It suggests a significant cabinet split over the planned law, amid an already highly charged atmosphere over its contents.

OPINION: Anti-BDS bill shielding Israel will have ‘profound detrimental’ impact on UK, says top lawyer

If the bill goes ahead as drafted, the foreign secretary believes Moscow “will use it against us”. Communities Secretary Michael Gove, who introduced the bill, has said that he knew of “no such advice.”

The advice was sent from the Foreign Office to Downing Street on 12 May. It warned of damaging consequences for the UK if the legislation went ahead in its current form. Foreign Office lawyers advised a clause in the bill “would significantly increase the risk of the UK being in breach of our commitments under [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 2334.”

Passed 14-0 in 2016 Resolution 2334 declared the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be occupied illegally and that Israeli settlements in both areas are a “flagrant violation” of international law and a “major obstacle” to peace. It also calls on countries “in their relevant dealings” to distinguish between Israel and the territories it has occupied since 1967.

International consensus on the illegality of Israel’s occupation and Jewish only settlements however has not stopped Israel from committing war crimes through the illegal practices of annexing Palestinian territory.

Israel’s allies in the West, instead of punishing the apartheid state, have not only rewarded Tel Aviv despite its violation of international law, they have shielded their ally from legal prosecution.

Acknowledging the evident hypocrisy of London’s policy, officials in the Foreign Office said such a breach of resolution 2334 “would provide ammunition to Russia in its attempt to undermine our narrative that its invasion of Ukraine is in violation of the UN charter and a number of Security Council resolutions” and that Russia was likely to accuse the UK of being “hypocritical”.

The letter adds: “Russia (and to an extent China, with an eye on Taiwan) would likely seize any opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of our voice on responsible multilateralism.

“In this context, the foreign secretary believes that the legislation, as drafted, will create difficult handling issues… and that Moscow will use it against us.”

READ: UN resolution 2334 must be seen as a tool, not just a victory