Now Boris Johnson’s crazies want to outlaw BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions)

Israel flag waver Robert Jenrick

We’ll be working on this in coming months, claims pro-Israel former minister on the Tory benches

By Stuart Littlewood

The Jerusalem Post reports that British MP Robert Jenrick, former Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in Boris Johnson’s government, has announced that Parliament will pass legislation to outlaw the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the UK in coming months.

He was addressing a Leadership Dialogue Institute’s (LDI) online conference titled “Why do so many people hate Jews?”. He said: “I do think BDS is being beaten back here… There is no political party in the UK that would support BDS today and [supporting BDS] is becoming much more of a fringe activity. In the following months, we will be working to outlaw BDS in the UK.”

“In his time in Parliament and especially in government he [Robert Jenrick] has not been noted for good judgement, his behaviour riddled with impropriety ranging from letting down the Grenfell fire victims to unlawful planning decisions…”

However, the UK Labour Party passed a motion at its recent annual Brighton conference to define Israel as an apartheid state and impose sanctions. The motion further demanded taking action against the building of settlements, reversing any annexation and ending the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. On the other hand the Conservative Party’s 2019 general election manifesto included a commitment to “ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries”. But the Tories will struggle to get their silly scheme through.

Jenrick is another of Boris’s wretched bully-boys. In his time in Parliament and especially in government he has not been noted for good judgement, his behaviour riddled with impropriety ranging from letting down the Grenfell fire victims to unlawful planning decisions, for example in the Desmond case.

Back in July 2019 he was saying: “I want tackling anti-Semitism and ensuring that the Jewish community feels protected and respected to be one of my priorities as secretary of state.”

According to the Jewish Chronicle, he vowed to take action against universities and “parts of local government” which, he said, had become “corrupted” by anti-Semitism. Writing in the Sunday Express, he added: “I will use my position as Secretary of State to write to all universities and local authorities to insist that they adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition [of anti-Semitism] at the earliest opportunity. I expect them to confirm to me when they do so.”

“Why was he [Jenrick], the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, wasting time and taxpayers’ money dabbling in foreign policy and advocating for a foreign military power [Israel] instead of getting on with governing Britain?”

On another occasion Jenrick announced to a Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary reception that he would “look forward to the day” when Britain’s embassy in Israel will be “moved to Jerusalem”. And he told the Board of Deputies of British Jews he would not tolerate local authority approved BDS campaigns in the UK. “Local authorities should not be wasting time and taxpayers’ money by dabbling in foreign policy or pursuing anti-Israel political obsessions.” The same could be said of Jenrick himself. Why was he, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, wasting time and taxpayers’ money dabbling in foreign policy and advocating for a foreign military power instead of getting on with governing Britain? Was no-one monitoring ministerial behaviour?

In 2020 he was moaning that only 136 of the 343 local authorities in England had agreed to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and declared that all universities and local councils “must adopt” it. If they didn’t, and they failed to tackle anti-Semitism, they could expect to lose public funding.

Who is Jenrick?

He has an Israeli-born wife. He qualified as a lawyer, so should have respected warnings by top legal opinion (for example, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and Geoffrey Robertson QC) that the IHRA definition is “most unsatisfactory”, has no legal force, and using it to punish could be unlawful. It also undermines Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the UK’s own Human Rights Act 1998.

Jenrick seems to have aligned himself with sinister moves by Johnson aimed at protecting Israel from the consequences of its countless breaches of international law and crimes against the Palestinians by recently outlawing the political wing of Hamas and banning public bodies from imposing their own boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions (BDS). But what could any decent administration possibly fear from BDS? It is simply a peaceful response to Israel’s thuggery. It urges non-violent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting three perfectly reasonable demands:

  • Ending its unlawful occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall (international law recognises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel).
  • Recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
  • Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

So how is Boris Johnson proposing to block BDS? Briefing notes accompanying the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, which set out his government’s programme, said:

  • We will stop public institutions from imposing their own approach or views about international relations, through preventing boycotts, divestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries and those who trade with them.
  • This will create a coherent approach to foreign relations from all public institutions, by ensuring that they do not go beyond the UK government’s settled policy towards a foreign country. The UK government is responsible for foreign relations and determining the best way to interact with its international neighbours.

The ban will apply to institutions across the public sector, not just councils, and will cover purchasing, procurement and investment decisions.

Johnson and his underlings just don’t seem to get it. BDS is a legitimate, peaceful way of opposing Israel’s illegal occupation. Put simply, as long as Israel regards its criminal and brutal occupation as business as usual, there should be no business with Israel. Furthermore, the foreign policies of successive UK governments have not met with the approval of the British people, and never will as long as US-Israel pimps dictate at Westminster.

If the government’s “settled policy” towards Israel was consistent with international law and human rights conventions, there’d be no need for BDS campaigns because the UK would already be applying sanctions. The Conservatives’ election manifesto also pledged to “ensure that no one is put off from engaging in politics… by threats, harassment or abuse, whether in person or online”. They also promised to champion the rule of law, human rights, free trade, anti-corruption efforts and a rules-based international system – all of which Israel refuses to comply with. So, the government’s stance is a pathetic joke.

Are standards of behaviour no longer important?

Jenrick also falls foul of the Ministerial Code. One would have thought the first two paragraphs enough to banish him to outer darkness:

1.1 Ministers of the Crown are expected to maintain high standards of behaviour and to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety.

1.2 Ministers should be professional in all their dealings and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect. Working relationships…. should be proper and appropriate. Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the Ministerial Code and will not be tolerated.

Elsewhere the Code decrees that “ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests”, and they are expected to observe the Seven Principles of Public Life. The Principle of Integrity states that holders of public office “must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence their work”.

Verdict: the man who said Jeremy Corbyn was unfit to be prime minister is himself unfit to be in government.


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