Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Britain stands on the wrong side of history

Over the past decade, Israel's actions in Palestine have become so repulisve that a global movement has formed to boycott them. And it's been effective - not in crushing the israeli economy, but in eroding Israel's legitimacy and international support for its crimes. So, Israel's friends in the British Conservative party have a simple solution: make it illegal:

Local councils, public bodies and even some university student unions are to be banned by law from boycotting “unethical” companies, as part of a controversial crackdown being announced by the Government.

Under the plan all publicly funded institutions will lose the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Any public bodies that continue to pursue boycotts will face “severe penalties”, ministers said.

Senior government sources said they were cracking down on town-hall boycotts because they “undermined good community relations, poisoned and polarised debate and fuelled anti-Semitism”.

But while this is framed as being about Israel, its not just about them. The arms, gambling and tobacco industries are major targets for ethical investment policies. And there's a huge global movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry to combat climate change. And like the Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, these campaigns have been effective in de-legitimising those industries, building public support, and making real change possible.

And the Tories want to over-rule local democracy to outlaw this. In other words, they want to force local bodies, universities, and government pension funds to support Israel, give people cancer, sell guns, and destroy the planet, regardless of what their voters and stakeholders think. Which just shows how far they'll go to protect their corporate and foreign cronies.