JJP lobbies the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee on the Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill

In August 2023, JJP lobbied the two Co-Chairs (one Conservative and one Labour) of the scrutiny committee. Called the anti-BDS bill, if passed into law it would unjustifiably restrict people’s right to free expression, tarnish the UK’s reputation for upholding international law, and give unwarranted protection from civil society protest to the State of Israel.

JJP also made a more detailed formal submission to the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee on the anti-BDS bill, which we will publish on this website when the Committee lifts its embargo on publishing submissions.

Our letter is below:

18 August 2023

Dame Caroline Dinenage and Sir George Howarth


Parilamentary Scrutiny Committee on the Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill

Dear Dame Caroline and Sir George,

We are writing to request a meeting to discuss the “Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters)” Bill. As you know, this Bill seeks to remove the right of public bodies to make their own decisions on whether or how to take ethical considerations regarding foreign countries into account in purchasing and investment decisions. Moreover, it also seeks to penalise advocacy for ethical decisions or any statement by an official that they would have taken a decision on ethical grounds had they been allowed to so so.

Despite its generalised title, the Bill is obviously aimed at protecting the State of Israel from boycotts and divestments in protest against its prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory and infringement of Palestinian rights. This is made crystal clear by the fact that the Secretary of State will be able to issue a derogation for any country except Israel, thereby giving Israel an unprecedented protection from civil society campaigning against human rights abuses, afforded to no other country.

It should be recognised that the Bill is directly related to the current government’s shameful “policy paper”, the “2030 roadmap for UK-Israel bilateral relations“. This paper completely ignores the occupation, the settlements, and the suppression of Palestinian rights, while stating its “objection to Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns (against Israel)”. It treats serious criticism of Israeli policies as “disproportionate” or proof of antisemitism. Its reference to Palestine or Palestinians is this single sentence: “We will cooperate in improving Palestinian livelihoods and Palestinian economic development.”

Both paper and Bill seek to convert the current Conservative government’s tolerance of Isreal’s unjust and illegal behaviour into law. In pursuit of this objective, the government is clearly willing to compromise not only British citizens right to free expression enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and our own Human Rights Act, but also the UK’s standing as a supporter of international law. Many people in the Jewish community, well beyond our large membership, do not support the Bill.

We urge your committee to recommend that the Bill be dropped. We hope to hear from you shortly to arrange a meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur Goodman, Diplomatic and Parliamentary Officer

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