The UK Tory government is set to make it illegal for local councils, public bodies, and even student unions to boycott companies deemed ‘unethical’.
The controversial plan would mean institutions would be penalised if they refused to buy goods from Israeli businesses involved in arms dealing, fossil fuels, tobacco products or settlements in the occupied West Bank, reports The Independent.
Government ministers have promised ‘severe penalties’ for bodies that do not fall in line with their plans.
The Independent has claimed that senior government sources are justifying the move as a means of preventing prejudicial views of Israel being spread.
The source argued that boycotts ‘undermined good community relations, poisoned and polarised debate and fuelled anti-Semitism’.
That view has not been widely shared since the plans were made public:
Boycot Israeli goods
Makes YOU a criminal?
Tories Loved & Supported Apartheid South Africa
Tories ARE racist-lovershttps://t.co/ainZQVpxiV
— Sid (@red13charlie) February 15, 2016
All civilised people should shun the Apartheid Settler state; Boycott Israel,Divest from Israel, Sanction Israel. #PalestineUnderAttack
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) February 15, 2016
A spokesperson for Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has said:
The Government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy.
People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds.Advertisement
This Government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa. Ministers talk about devolution, but in practice they’re imposing Conservative Party policies on elected local councils across the board.
— Shan….❤️ (@ShansRedShoes) February 15, 2016
reminder that the state is an infinitely bigger threat to freedom of expression than student activists could ever be https://t.co/VqvEXg9kz1
— tom (@malaiseforever) February 15, 2016
A spokesperson for the National Union of Students added that they are:
Concerned by any external pressure that could prevent student unions taking decisions on any issue that affects the students they represent.
This is a direct attack on freedom of thought and action. Public bodies can’t refuse unethical companies? Ludicrous https://t.co/AhAqKfrzAf
— Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal) February 14, 2016
Whichever way you look at it the Conservative government is moving to restrict the freedom of public bodies, intended to represent the electorate, from making decisions that represent the interest of citizens.
War, climate change, prejudice. All things that responsible people should fight against, and the government is actively seeking to penalise those who would.
Pretty ridiculous, if you think about it.