The United Kingdom is planning to introduce new guidelines that forbid local councils from undermining British foreign policy by waging their own boycott campaigns against other nations, The Guardian reported on Saturday.
The directive, which will be issued early next year, will emphasize that local governing bodies must pursue policies that are consistent with the agenda spearheaded by Downing Street. It could prevent anti-Israel activists from using local councils to advance the controversial Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which aims to isolate Israel until it accedes to a number of unilateral Palestinian demands.
“Councils should not be using pensions and procurement policies to pursue their own boycotts and sanctions against foreign nations,” said a spokesman for the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government. “We are tightening up the rules to ensure taxpayers’ and the UK’s interests are protected.”
Last month, London mayor Boris Johnson blasted boycotters of Israel during a trip to Tel Aviv, saying that he “cannot think of anything more foolish” than to boycott “a country that when all is said and done is the only democracy in the region, the only place that has in my view a pluralist open society.” That same week, Lord Robert Winston, a pioneer in the field of in-vitro fertilization, said that the anti-Israel boycott campaign consists of “mostly second-rate academics from minor universities who have never done anything.”
In October, the British government strongly condemned a letter signed by UK university professors calling for a boycott of Israel, with Britain’s ambassador to Israel saying that London “firmly opposes” such initiatives and “will never allow those who want to boycott Israel to shut down 60 years worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make both our countries stronger.”
Earlier that month, over 150 British artists, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantel, and noted historian Simon Schama, signed a public letter calling boycott campaigns against Israel “divisive and discriminatory.”
Various anti-Israel boycott activists, particularly those affiliated with the BDS movement, have gone on record affirming that they seek Israel’s destruction. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, a hard-line opponent of the two state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” while leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”