MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – British Conservatives are planning to make it impossible for public bodies to pursue boycotts of Israeli products. The move comes after Town Halls across the UK began effectively dictating foreign policy by voting to stop buying from Israeli companies.
From now on only countries that have been subject to official sanctions from the UK government can be boycotted. On the eve of their annual conference in Manchester a Conservative statement warned of risks to the “economic and national security” of the country from “municipal militancy”.
The ban will come into force in the shape of new rules on procurement for local authorities. There will also be rules governing council pension funds so they cannot avoid Israeli firms and UK defense contractors if they represent a good investment.
The move comes amidst growing concern over the militant actions of left-wing councils, spurred on by trade unions and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Conservatives claim these actions threaten to “poison community relations” and “harm Britain’s economic and international interests”. The ban is likely to be just one of a raft of policies, announced during the conference, aimed at exposing Corbyn as a threat to national security and peace in the Middle East.
The Labour leader has already spent a week defending his position on wanting to abolish Britain's nuclear deterrent, Trident. Corbyn also described himself as a “friend” to Hamas and Hezbollah, prompting concerns he is not on Britain's side in most international disputes. He is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is encouraging boycotts across the country.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government that working people want to see.”
There have already been a raft of Israeli boycotts across UK local government. In November 2014, Labour run Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Jewish groups have recently launched a judicial review against the council’s decision, asking the courts to rule on its legality. They warned the policy “amounts to a get-of-out-town order to Leicester Jews”.
In January this year, Labour councillors on Nottingham City Council debated a boycott against Israel, the council resolved to consider the issue further and “work with the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign”.
Matthew Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “We will take steps to stop such outdated policies being pursued through procurement and pension policies. We will safeguard the security of families at home and prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”
Earlier this year Alex Brummer, from the British Board of Jewish Deputies, said: “Importing foreign conflicts into our local communities causes real friction on the ground and does nothing to promote peace elsewhere.”
Not every public body has taken a left-wing position when making their own foreign policy. Shortly after 9/11 the University of Reading Students' Union declared war on Iraq, only to be told by the Foreign Office they had no right to do so. Unlike the students at Reading University the boycotts of Israel are doing real economic harm.