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UK government sends anti BDS bill for parliamentary approval

Opponents of the bill march in protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, UK. (Photo: The National)

The UK government has introduced legislation to Parliament which proposes a total ban on boycotting Israeli goods.

The proposed legislation will prevent public bodies from adopting their own approach to international relations, including through sanctions and divestment campaigns.

Universities and local councils are likely to be most affected, with critics saying this is the latest assault on freedom of speech in Britain.

The right of organizations and authorities and so on to withdraw their money from inhumane and illegal projects; you know, that should be an absolute right.

And we're also seeing, not only in terms of the BDS but we're seeing the government restriction of the right to protest, you know, with Public Order Act really accelerated into implementation last week.

Protestor 01

What we're asking for as a British public is sanction Israel; we ask for international law to be upheld, if any other country was breaking this many laws, this frequently, on an international level, sanctions would be placed on them without doubt.

So we're asking for a level playing field here, International law to be applied to Israel. Sanction Israel, now.

Protestor 02

Why should that right to protest - a peaceful democratic process - why should that be withdrawn from us?

It’s another indication of an increasingly authoritarian tendency from our government.

Protestor 01

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, also known as BDS, is the main target of this government plan.

BDS is a Palestinian led initiative promoting boycotts and economic sanctions against Israel amid ongoing crimes against the occupied Palestinian people.

The movement has grown so popular that governments across Europe have been working to curb their activities.

The UK effort is spearheaded by well known pro Israel British MPs, particularly Michael Gove, a government minister.

Gove, who has a long track record of praising Israel and has been accused multiple times of Islamophobia, has said that "disruptive campaigns to boycott Israel lead to appalling antisemitic rhetoric and abuse.

Monday saw the first of many readings of the proposed bill after which a debate and vote will take place.

If the bill does indeed pass into law, then offenders could face significant fines or investigations.

Pro-Israel groups have welcomed the legislation while at least 70 civil society organizations have opposed it.

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