Creating new perspectives since 2009

UK govt to target pro-Palestine groups with proposal to tackle ‘extremism’

March 5, 2024 at 12:23 pm

Pro-Palestinian activists holding a banner protest against the International Military Helicopter (IMH) conference being held at Twickenham Stadium, United Kingdom on 27 February 2024 [Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images]

The UK government is planning to broaden the definition of extremism to enable public bodies to crack down on a wider range of what it calls Islamist and right-wing groups, the Telegraph has reported. The move could potentially lead to organisations such as Palestine Action and even the Muslim Council of Britain being identified and blacklisted as “extremist”.

The newspaper revealed that Communities Secretary Michael Gove is concerned that the current official definition of extremism is too narrow. The new definition would enable the government and public bodies to ban groups from venues or campuses and block funding if they are deemed to be promoting “extremist ideology” that undermines or overturns “British values”.

Palestine Action, a group committed to closing down Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms manufacturer, is among the organisations that could be affected by the new definition. In response to the report, a spokesman for the group said: “This Government, along with Israel, has killed over 30,000 Palestinians in a genocide. The primary target of our campaign is Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms manufacturer, which markets its weapons as ‘battle-tested’. No definition will deter our campaign to shut Elbit down.”

The spokesman added that most of the people in Britain share this view and reject complicity in genocide. “According to the Arms Trade Treaty, which Britain has ratified, it should not be arming Israel. Is the Arms Trade Treaty and international law extreme?”

The Muslim Council of Britain, another organisation that could potentially be identified as extremist under the new definition, has yet to provide a statement on the matter.

The Telegraph’s report has sparked a debate on the balance between combating extremism and protecting the right to free speech and political activism in the UK.

Gove’s plan comes as the ruling Conservative Party is mired in a row over Islamophobia and fuelling anti-Muslim sentiment. The minister was a leading architect of the so called Trojan horse hoax in 2014, and has been accused of a witch-hunt against Muslims and of leading a McCarthyite charge to blacklist Muslim organisations in Britain.

He is also a committed supporter of the state of Israel. Indeed, Gove has taken unprecedented steps to shield the apartheid state. Last year, a bill proposed by the right-wing MP granted special protection to Israel in the anti-boycott Bill. The Bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords upper chamber last month.

READ: Israel killed another 124 Palestinians in 24 hours