UK: minister calls for BDS ban as Western hypocrisy over Israel gets worse 

UK's Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Michael Gove (File)

Middle East Monitor  /  March 8, 2022

With Britain joining other Western states in imposing sanctions on Russia, a senior Conservative Party minister has denounced the Palestinian-led campaign to impose sanctions on Israel for its human rights abuses and violations of international law, including apartheid. Michael Gove has urged MPs to proscribe the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Britain.

Gove describes himself as a “proud Zionist”. Last month he was described as “Islamophobic” over his role in the so-called “Trojan horse affair” in schools in the city of Birmingham eight years ago. He launched an attack against BDS during yesterday’s parliamentary debate on social inequality. Former Conservative MP Christian Wakeford, who defected to Labour recently, asked a question about the rise in anti-Semitism and if the government will continue to pay for security at Jewish schools and synagogues.

“The government has funded the security at Jewish locations, including synagogues and schools, and this, unfortunately, is vital to ensuring the safety of the Jewish community,” said Wakeford, also a vocal opponent of BDS. “Will the Secretary of State commit to the continuation of this funding next year, as well as ensuring that it is adjusted for the increased cost associated with inflation?”

Gove replied that “everything” will be done to ensure that funding continues. He then proceeded to denounce the BDS campaign. “One of the things we can all do across this House in order to tackle the evil of anti-Semitism is stand against the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign,” said Gove. He thus conflated the non-violent campaign to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestine and contempt for international law with racism towards Jews. This is a common tactic adopted by Zionists.

Urging members of parliament to proscribe BDS, Gove added that legislation outlawing the campaign at local government level is being brought forward. He called on his former colleague Wakeford to back the legislation.

Pro-Israel minister Robert Jenrick introduced an amendment to the public service pension schemes last month to outlaw BDS. The controversial amendment was passed by the 650-seat House of Commons with 296 MPs voting in favour and 81 against.

The move to proscribe the BDS campaign comes as accusations of double standards and hypocrisy are directed at Western governments. Growing calls by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, for the UN to impose targeted sanctions against Israel for its breach of international law in imposing a form of apartheid and committing a crime against humanity in its “domination” of the Palestinians, have been rejected by Western governments, even as they impose sanctions on Russia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the UN Human Rights Council recently that it must send a “resolute message” to Vladimir Putin to stop the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “These are the human rights abuses this council was created to stop. If we cannot come together now, when will we come together?” he said. In the same speech, Blinken slammed the same council for its investigation into Israeli violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“We see that not just the US government but US companies are falling over themselves to sanction and boycott anything that has an association with the Russian government,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the former director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. “Contrast that with the exact opposite when it comes to sanctioning Israel for its violations of international law to the point where American states are passing laws to punish Americans unless they promise never to boycott Israel. It’s very clear that the grounds for resisting sanctions on Israel, or even its compliance with international law, are purely political.”