By Somayeh Khalili
British government’s move to table a bill in the parliament that intends to ban local public bodies from joining the popular boycott campaign against the Israeli regime threatens to erode democratic values, restrict freedom of expression and undermine campaigns for social justice.
Rania Madi, a legal adviser to the United Nations and the European Union, who previously served as UN legal advocacy representative of Badil, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, made these remarks in an interview with the Press TV website.
“We Palestinians, lawyers, activists from over the world and civil societies are deeply concerned by the government’s anti-boycott bill, which threatens to erode local democracy, restrict freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and undermine campaigns for social and climate justice,” the Ramallah-born activist and attorney remarked.
The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, which opposes boycotts of the Israeli regime, was introduced in the British parliament last week, sparking a massive outcry.
Under the guise of “antisemitic rhetoric and abuse,” the legislation seeks to bar public organizations in the UK from boycotting the apartheid regime through sanctions and divestment campaigns.
“These campaigns not only undermine the UK’s foreign policy but lead to appalling antisemitic rhetoric and abuse. That is why we have taken this decisive action to stop these disruptive policies once and for all,” UK Communities Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement on Tuesday, justifying the move.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a campaign spearheaded by pro-Palestine advocacy organizations seeking to advance the cause of Palestine by applying economic pressure on Israel.
Madi told the Press TV website that from the Belfour Declaration to the British Mandate of Palestine, Britain has played an “irrefutable role in dispossessing Palestinians from their land”, in Palestine’s “colonization and ethnic cleansing”, and aiding the “world's longest military occupation in history.”
“We have to go to the root cause of the colonization which goes back 106 years,” she asserted. “Don’t forget the Belfour Declaration which called for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The British had no right, authority or consent over, to determine their destiny.”
BDS is an international campaign that works to build pressure on the Israeli regime to comply with international law and end its occupation, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement.
The growing popularity of the movement has prompted governments in the West to curb its activities under the pressure of pro-Israel lobbies, with the UK effort spearheaded by Gove and some others.
Madi said the BDS movement and other such campaigns have “long been used to campaign peacefully for progressive change around the world”.
“We should continue our fight for liberty, justice and dignity of the Palestinian people. Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality…75 years have passed since the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed and forcibly expelled from their homes, lands and property,” she said.
The international legal expert also condemned the inhumane conditions in Israeli prisons and said every year hundreds of innocent children are imprisoned and held without trial in these prisons.
“According to many UN documents, each year approximately 500 children as young as 12 years old are detained,” Mani told the Press TV website.
“The majority of these children who are arrested and interrogated by the Israeli military have been mistreated and tortured and obliged to sign documents in Hebrew a language that they don’t understand,” she hastened to add.