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Issue #1783      June 28, 2017

Win for BDS movement

BRITAIN: High Court recognition that Theresa May’s government acted unlawfully by attempting to undermine the peaceful tactic of isolating Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is an important ruling.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid’s department exceeded its supervisory powers last September in issuing politically based guidance to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LPGS).

It attempted to bludgeon the scheme into falling in line with Tory politics over support for the Zionist state and for the arms trade, but the decision by LPGS to challenge executive heavy-handedness has been vindicated.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign chair Hugh Lanning is correct to call the court ruling “a victory for Palestine, for local democracy and for the rule of law,” but it is equally a check on an overbearing government.

It beggars belief that government counsel Nigel Giffin QC argued that boycotts are contrary to this country’s foreign policy when the current administration has applied various boycotts to Russia, Iran, Syria and elsewhere.

What Theresa May’s government opposes – as with every previous Tory administration – are grassroots-generated boycotts.

Britain’s Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM), which did so much to build public sentiment against apartheid South Africa, began life as the Boycott Movement in 1959, encouraging shoppers not to buy South African produce.

Despite backing from the opposition Labour Party, the AAM was frustrated when Labour took office in 1964 and prime minister Harold Wilson reneged on the boycott decision, adopting the position of NATO which justified military links with apartheid South Africa as a bulwark against communism in Africa.

Wilson explained that Labour was “not in favour of trade sanctions partly because, even if fully effective, they would harm the people we are most concerned about – the Africans and those white South Africans who are having to maintain some standard of decency there.”

NATO cold war considerations dictated the stance of all British governments, Tory and Labour, until apartheid’s demise, but the boycott movement mushroomed with rank-and-file support from many political parties, including Labour.

A key factor in assisting pro-boycott mobilisation was the firm backing for the campaign by the African National Congress, seen correctly as the voice of the overwhelming majority of disenfranchised South Africans.

Those enlisting their plight as a reason to oppose the boycott were exposed as duplicitous apologists for the apartheid regime.

A similar situation pertains today with regard to occupied Palestine as, despite the Palestinians being cut off by the Israeli occupiers from trading freely with the rest of the world, their acknowledged representatives have united in support of BDS.

Supporters of Israeli expansionism – the government has just begun building yet another new settlement on the West Bank – persist with mythology about Tel Aviv wishing to negotiate over the land it occupied and began colonising 50 years ago.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, who first visited the occupied territories in 1967 as a 14-year-old, has since revealed horrific realities that most Israelis, as did their white South African counterparts, refuse to consider.

“Never has a single Israeli prime minister seen the Palestinians as human beings or as a nation with equal rights, nor has there ever been one who seriously wanted to end the occupation. Not one,” he wrote yesterday.

“Our Tory government is as insensitive to Palestinian national rights as its predecessors were to those of black South Africans. Yesterday’s High Court decision cannot simply be applauded. It must serve to mobilise yet more effectively for BDS against Israel.”

Morning Star

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