UK anti-BDS bill gives Israel ‘protective shield’ over crimes, critics tell Arab News

Protesters gather in London in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights. (Palestine Solidarity Campaign/File Photo)
Protesters gather in London in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights. (Palestine Solidarity Campaign/File Photo)
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Updated 04 July 2023
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UK anti-BDS bill gives Israel ‘protective shield’ over crimes, critics tell Arab News

Protesters gather in London in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.
  • Legislation permits fining of public bodies that engage in boycotts of Israel
  • Minister claims Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement has led to ‘increase in antisemitic events’

LONDON: Palestinian rights organizations and NGOs have criticized the UK Parliament’s passing of a bill that aims to restrict the role of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Britain.

The House of Commons late on Monday backed the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill by 268 to 70 votes following hours of debate.

The bill permits the fining of public bodies in the UK that launch boycotts of, or campaign against, a particular territory, unless in line with the government’s own foreign policy.

But the new regulations are understood as targeting the pro-Palestinian BDS movement, which has received support from several major councils in Britain.

Michael Gove, the communities secretary, said the bill will ensure that foreign policy remains the undertaking of the UK government, as opposed to smaller public bodies.

He claimed that the BDS movement, which calls for economic pressure on Israel over its treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, has resulted in an “increase in antisemitic events.”

But Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Arab News that the “dreadful” proposed legislation would curtail local democracy in the UK and strip the ability of public bodies to practice due diligence.

He said the bill represents a “major restriction on freedom of speech and conscience,” and would fail to achieve its goal of curtailing antisemitism.

Doyle added that the proposed legislation would also contradict the UK’s established legal positions toward Israel and the Occupied Territories, and would give the former a “protective shield” over its crimes.

The UK’s longstanding foreign policy toward Israel calls for an end to the military occupation of the Palestinian territories through a two-state solution.

As part of that stance, Israeli settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories is viewed as an illegal obstacle to peace under international law.

If the bill becomes UK policy, Israel would be the only country in the world that a local British public body cannot disinvest from, Doyle warned.

Peter Leary, campaigns officer at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told Arab News: “While Israel is unleashing some of its most extreme violence in decades against the Palestinian people, the British government has chosen to single it out by name in the anti-boycott bill, alongside the ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ and ‘occupied Golan Heights,’ as territories that the law explicitly protects from public sector boycotts.

“This bill will actively promote impunity for violations of international law and well-documented discrimination against Palestinians.

“Despite assertions that foreign policy remains unchanged, for the first time, a piece of British legislation will require Israel and the territories it illegally occupies to be treated in the same way, a departure from decades of international consensus on the illegality of settlements.”

MPs have also criticized the bill, including Alicia Kearns of the governing Conservative Party, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee.

She said the government should remove references to Israel and Palestine from the legislation’s text as it “essentially gives exceptional impunity to Israel.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “Public bodies should not be pursuing their own foreign policy agenda … The ban on boycotts does not apply to individuals, including publicly elected officials, when carrying out private acts that are protected by the Human Rights Act.”


Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover

Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover
Updated 5 sec ago
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Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover

Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover
WARSAW: Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused President Vladimir Putin of “satanism” on Saturday for not allowing the body to be returned to his family.
Navalny’s mother Lyudmila has said authorities are threatening to bury him on the grounds of the Arctic prison colony where he died earlier this month if she did not agree to a “secret” funeral.
“You tortured him alive, now you torture him while he is dead,” Yulia Navalnaya, who has vowed to continue her husband’s work, said in a new video, published Saturday.
Russian authorities have said only that an investigation is ongoing and have previously criticized accusations from Navalnaya as “unfounded and vulgar.”
Navalnaya said on Saturday she believed the pressure being put on Navalny’s mother was coming directly from Putin.
“Putin is directing it all. It’s Putin saying, ‘Put pressure on the mother, break her, tell her the body of her son is rotting’,” she said.
“This is the same Putin that likes to show that he is a practicing Christian,” she said.
Putin has for decades portrayed himself as a devoted Orthodox Christian and has in recent years focused on promoting what he calls “traditional values.”
“What Putin is doing now is hatred. No, not even hatred, it’s some kind of satanism,” Navalnaya said.
“We always knew that Putin’s faith is fake, but now we can see it like never before,” she added.
On the anniversary of Russia launching its military offensive, the late Kremlin critic’s wife also denounced Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine.
“You will answer for all of this... And for this (Navalny’s death) and for the war that you unleashed two years ago, also hiding behind Christian values,” Navalnaya said.
“You are just killing. You are just killing sleeping people at night with missiles blessed by the church.”

Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone

Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone
Updated 3 min 46 sec ago
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Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone

Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone
  • Biden called the landing “a thrilling step forward in a new era of space exploration”
  • “America does hard things. We rise to the great scientific challenges of our time”

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed the landing of a US spacecraft on the Moon as a historic achievement in space research led by the United States.
The uncrewed Odysseus lander, built by a private company and funded by NASA, landed near the lunar south pole Thursday, more than 50 years since the agency’s last Apollo 17 mission to Earth’s cosmic neighbor.
Biden called the landing “a thrilling step forward in a new era of space exploration” enabled by cooperation between the private and public sectors.
“It was made possible by American ingenuity, innovation, and curiosity,” he said in a statement. “America is leading the world back to the Moon.”
Odysseus, which is the size of a large golf cart, is likely lying sideways on the Moon’s surface as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the robot, its makers said.
Intuitive Machines initially said that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but its CEO later said that announcement was based on misinterpreted data.
It appears that Odysseus caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off the accomplishment.
“America does hard things. We rise to the great scientific challenges of our time,” Biden’s statement said.
NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative that delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.
The United States, along with international partners, wants to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.


Dung dumped outside Russian ambassador’s home in Poland on Ukraine war anniversary

Dung dumped outside Russian ambassador’s home in Poland on Ukraine war anniversary
Updated 24 min 37 sec ago
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Dung dumped outside Russian ambassador’s home in Poland on Ukraine war anniversary

Dung dumped outside Russian ambassador’s home in Poland on Ukraine war anniversary
  • Activists put a bloodied Russian flag with the letter “Z” on the pile of manure
  • Elsewhere in Warsaw at 6 a.m. local time other protesters played the sound of sirens, gunfire and explosions outside a building housing Russian diplomats

WARSAW: Protesters said they dumped two tons of dung outside the home of the Russian ambassador to Poland on Saturday, as they marked the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Activists put a bloodied Russian flag with the letter “Z” on the pile of manure and stuck a sign into it that said “We don’t want you in EU! Get out!,” pictures of the protest in Konstancin-Jeziorna, seen by Reuters, showed.
The town near Warsaw is where the ambassador lives.
Elsewhere in Warsaw at 6 a.m. local time other protesters played the sound of sirens, gunfire and explosions outside a building housing Russian diplomats.
“We wanted a clear signal to the Polish authorities and the European Union. It’s high time to expel Russian diplomats from our country,” said Dominik, a protester quoted in a statement.
The Russian embassy in Warsaw did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
In contrast to the Baltic states which have expelled Russian ambassadors, Poland has so far not taken such a step although it has removed diplomats.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started the deadliest war on European soil in more than 70 years.


Civil society challenges India’s ties with Israel, warns of war crimes complicity

Civil society challenges India’s ties with Israel, warns of war crimes complicity
Updated 24 February 2024
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Civil society challenges India’s ties with Israel, warns of war crimes complicity

Civil society challenges India’s ties with Israel, warns of war crimes complicity
  • Top intellectuals demand that New Delhi ceases facilitating Israeli military activity
  • Activists renew calls for action to oppose the world’s ‘last colonial project’

NEW DELHI: Members of Indian civil society have come together to break their government’s silence on Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians and put pressure on it to refrain from any kind of complicity with Tel Aviv.

Despite India’s historic support for Palestine, New Delhi has been mostly quiet in the wake of Israel’s deadly siege and onslaught on Gaza, which since October has killed nearly 30,000 people, wounded some 70,000, and left most of the enclave’s population starving and with no access to medical, food and water supplies.

When Indians went to the streets in the past months to protest and raise awareness on the atrocities unfolding in Gaza, their demonstrations were dispersed by police and campaigns stifled.

At the same time, New Delhi signed an agreement to send tens of thousands of workers to Israel to replace their Palestinian counterparts. It has also been supplying Israeli forces with weapons, despite an International Court of Justice ruling which said it was plausible that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.

Grouped as Indians for Palestine, India’s top public intellectuals, politicians, lawyers, artists and diplomats launched a new movement on Friday to challenge the government’s links with Tel Aviv and demand that it follow the ICJ ruling that imposes a moral and legal obligation on signatories of the UN Genocide Convention, including India, to cease funding or facilitating Israel’s military activity.

“This is a group of concerned citizens who, like so many other people, have been greatly disturbed by the genocide that is taking place in Gaza,” Achin Vinaik, retired professor of international relations and global politics from the University of Delhi, told Arab News at the “International Court and Justice” public meeting at the Constitution Club of India on Friday.

“The Palestine issue is so clear-cut. The difference between victimizers and victims is so clear-cut that it is actually a litmus test for one’s basic humanity,” he said.

“If you are any kind of a decent human being, you will be appalled by what is happening to the Palestinian people. Israel is a settler colonial apartheid state.”

The meeting produced a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and urging the Indian government to “publicly endorse the latest ruling of the ICJ, stand against all violations of the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza and refrain from any sort of complicity with Israel.”

The resolution also called on people across Asia to demonstrate collective solidarity with the people of Palestine — in spirit, resources, speech, and action.

“I think it’s so important that everyone gets involved in whatever way that they can because the Palestinian people really need solidarity from the entire global community and whoever is able to support them and whatever way they can,” Sanya Khera, a student in Delhi who joined the platform, told Arab News.

“I think it’s so important that people gather in public forums like this and come together and have these discussions because you are not seeing it that much on the news, you are not seeing it in your newspapers.”

For Aban Raza, artist and activist, Friday’s meeting marked the emergence of a new platform to take action.

“Hopefully, very soon we can come on the streets and protest against it, like we used to,” she said.

“Silence is no longer an option and the most important thing that needs to be done is to speak up for the Palestinians, speak up wherever there is injustice happening, and the most grave injustice right now is happening in Palestine.”

The hundreds of people who showed up at the Constitution Club of India venue were given the space to speak.

“We had a wonderful meeting of over 500 people who came and participated and clapped and showed their solidarity with the people of Gaza ... It tells ordinary people that their voices also count. For so long, even to speak about this was so difficult,” said Pamela Philipose, senior fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

“One person told me, and I think she put it so well ... She said: ‘We didn’t even have a chance to mourn for the people who died in Gaza, and this gave us the chance to actually mourn for them’.”

The importance of Indians speaking up against their government’s policy was also seen as a historic duty given India’s own colonial past.

“This is the last colonial project which exists on the Earth. And this colonial project, where Israel has been imposed on the land of Palestine, has to end. India even in its anti-colonial struggle days was for the rights of Palestine, so we have to continue with this legacy, also to justify our existence,” Apoorvanand Jha, public intellectual and professor at the University of Delhi, told Arab News.

“As we have seen in other countries as well — in the United States of America or in the United Kingdom, France, Germany — people have come out on the streets against their own governments. That’s what we are doing ... We belong to one humanity and that’s why it’s our duty to stand against our governments for the people of Palestine.”


Calls for MP’s sacking over claim Islamists ‘control’ London’s Muslim mayor

Calls for MP’s sacking over claim Islamists ‘control’ London’s Muslim mayor
Updated 24 February 2024
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Calls for MP’s sacking over claim Islamists ‘control’ London’s Muslim mayor

Calls for MP’s sacking over claim Islamists ‘control’ London’s Muslim mayor
  • Lee Anderson says Islamists have ‘got control’ of Sadiq Khan and capital city
  • Opposition figures urge PM to punish ‘appalling racism and Islamophobia’

LONDON: A Conservative MP in the UK is embroiled in controversy after claiming that Islamists have “got control” of Sadiq Khan, the Muslim mayor of London.

Lee Anderson made the comments in an interview on the GB News channel, and has since faced condemnation and calls for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to expel him from the governing Conservative Party.

Anderson told the channel on Friday, referring to major pro-Palestinian protests in the capital: “I don’t actually believe that these Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London.

“Again, this stems with Khan — he’s actually given our capital city away to his mates. If you let Labour in through the back door, expect more of this and expect our cities to be taken over by these lunatics.”

His comments follow similar claims by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who wrote in the Daily Telegraph that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now,” the BBC reported.

Anderson’s comments about Khan have been condemned by senior opposition figures. Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds described the remarks as “unambiguously racist and Islamophobic.” On X, she called for Sunak to sack Anderson “immediately,” Sky News reported.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow paymaster general, called for the same measure, describing Anderson’s comments as “vile” and “appalling racism and Islamophobia.”

Ashworth also referred to former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who recently took aim at the “deep state” in an appearance at a US conservative conference.

“It’s time to show some leadership and take on the extremists in your party,” Ashworth said in a letter to Sunak. “Liz Truss and Lee Anderson must no longer sit as Conservative MPs. Their words cannot go unchecked or unchallenged.”

Figures within Anderson’s own party have been divided in response to his comments. Former Chancellor Sajid Javid described the claims as “a ridiculous thing to say” in a post on X.

Former Conservative MP Gavin Barwell said Anderson had made a “despicable slur on Sadiq Khan and Londoners,” The Independent reported.

Barwell added: “In his first speech as PM, Rishi Sunak said he would ‘unite our country.’ If he allows the likes of Anderson to spread hate and division like this, those words will be revealed as a sham.”

Khan, who has served as mayor of London since 2016, is the first Muslim to hold the position.

Pro-Palestinian protests, which have been held weekly in London since the outbreak of the Gaza conflict last October, have angered some quarters of the Conservative Party.

In response to the furore surrounding Anderson’s comments, a Conservative Party source said: “Lee was simply making the point that the mayor, in his capacity as police and crime commissioner for London, has abjectly failed to get a grip on the appalling Islamist marches we have seen in London recently.”