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BDS Victory: Palestine activists beat UK government in 'unlawful' pensions policy Open in fullscreen

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BDS Victory: Palestine activists beat UK government in 'unlawful' pensions policy

The case was launched in 2016 [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 April, 2020

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The British government suffered a legal blow on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of a pro-Palestine organisation.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) dealt a stunning blow to the British government on Wednesday after a Supreme Court ruled against restricting local pension schemes from divesting from companies deemed to be complicit in Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

The legal victory was praised as “a major win” against the British government, in a case that dates back to 2016.

“This historic victory represents a major win not just for the campaign for Palestinian rights, but for the fundamental principles of democracy, freedom of expression and justice,” Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign Kamel Hawwash said.

Read also: Queen's Speech: Is the UK moving closer to Israel under Boris with new 'anti-BDS law'?

“At a time when Israel is continuing to ramp up its oppression of the Palestinian people and its illegal acts … the government should be acting to uphold international law and defend human rights, not attacking peaceful campaigns which seek to do precisely that,” he added.

The ruling found the government's guidance in preventing divestment on an ethical basis had been unlawful, reiterating an earlier High Court ruling in 2017 that said "anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian campaigning is not in itself anti-Semitic”.

The organisation’s solicitor, Jamie Potter, said: “LGPS members now have the freedom to pursue their own principles in respect of the role of the arms trade and foreign countries in violations of human rights around the world, when determining how their pension monies are invested.”

In December, reports suggested Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, which was newly-elected at the time, was expected to introduce a law making it illegal for UK public bodies to work with those involved in BDS campaigns, according to UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues Eric Pickles.

"BDS is antisemitic and should be treated as such," said Pickles, who is also the chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel.

"Antisemitism an attack on the British way of life and British identity. Without our Jewish citizens we would be a lesser nation," he added citing Labour’s loss as a rejection of antisemitism.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to list the anti-BDS motion as one of the government's priorities during the Queen’s Speech on Thursday, according to daily newspaper "i".

These efforts were listed in the foreign policy section of the Conservative Party’s manifesto, which had pledged to stop local councils from boycotting products from foreign countries, including Israel. The manifesto said this would "undermine community cohesion.”

Johnson has been opposed to BDS campaigns, telling the BBC in 2015 that he could "not think of anything more foolish" than boycotting Israel.  

The non-violent BDS movement says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking to put an end to Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank.

Israel claims the movement is a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism – a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.

But BDS, which advocates peaceful resistance, aims to pressure Israel to adhere to international law and human rights by lobbying various states, institutions and personas to understand its oppression of Palestinians and take action as a result.

The peaceful movement operates by pressuring corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel with supporters saying activities are aimed at promoting a Palestinian statehood.

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