Activism

Palestine solidarity group wins major BDS victory at UK Supreme Court

Court reverses ban that prohibited local governments from supporting the BDS movement
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The UK Supreme Court delivered the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) a major victory last month, after it reversed a ban that prohibited local governments from supporting the BDS movement.

In 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government’s issued guidance which blocked Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) from pushing objectives that contradict the United Kingdom’s foreign policy. This prohibition included divestment from companies connected to the Israeli occupation.

PSC launched a legal challenge against the move, winning in the Hight Court but losing in the Court of Appeal. “This landmark case is critical to pushing back against attempts to stifle the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement, and to defending the right of pension holders to refuse to be complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people,” said PSC chair Kamel Hawwash before the Supreme Court case began in November, “All of us should be able to choose not to be complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights – a win in this case would be a triumph for all those who believe in democracy, freedom of expression and justice.”

In its statement celebrating the victory, PSC warned of further anti-BDS legislation developing in the UK: “…We know we will need to do more, and PSC is building a campaign alongside a broad range of allies who are concerned about attempts to bring in laws that seek to prohibit public bodies from making their own decisions about not investing in companies that are complicit in violations of international law – whether in relation to Palestine or elsewhere.”

In response to the Supreme Court decision, UK lawmakers will reportedly now look to pass a law prohibiting local councils from supporting BDS. The Conservative Party’s manifesto from last year’s election included a promise to pursue such a law.

“Town hall boycotts undermine good community relations, weakening integration and fuelling antisemitism,” said Communities Secretary Rt. Hon. Robert Jenrick MP at the time, “Local public bodies should focus on their day jobs – such as running libraries and collecting bins, rather than running a divisive foreign policy from town halls.”