UJS and Jewish youth groups confirm opposition to UK government’s anti-BDS Bill

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UJS and Jewish youth groups confirm opposition to UK government’s anti-BDS Bill

UJS unanimously pass motion condemning the government's proposals at their annual conference, while the Noam Masorti Youth, RSY-Netzer, LJZ-Netzer and Habonim Dror groups write to the Board and JLC

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

BDS protest 2019
BDS protest 2019

The Union of Jewish Students along with leading communal youth groups have expressed the opposition to the UK government’s proposed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill – claiming it impacts on the right to protest against countries that violate civil rights.

A motion passed unanimously at UJS conference stated:”the UK government’s recently proposed BDS Sanctions Bill weakens the ability of British Jewish students to approach the conversation about Israel in a nuanced manner.

“The Bill, in the name of ‘community cohesion’ and purportedly the Jewish community seeks to impose a sweeping ban on public bodies making investment decisions based on considerations such as human rights.”

The motion stated:”UJS reaffirms its support for the democratic right to non-violently protest and opposes the government’s proposed Boycott Bill which is a curtailment of that right, as well as presenting a risk to British Jewish communities and a setback to Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

At the same time the motion reiterated student opposition to the BDS movement itself “in particular BDS motions that do not differentiate between internationally recognised pre-1967 borders of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Part of the UJS motion expressing opposition to government anti-BDS legislation

In February last year MPs voted in favour of Robert Jenrick’s Public Service Pensions Bill amendment, which will enable ministers to stop authorities from making investment decisions that conflict with UK foreign policy.

Even though the amendment did not specifically mention BDS, Jenrick had used a Commons debate prior to tabling it to brand the movement “antisemitic.”

It is understood that at UJS conference earlier this month, the motion, which had been proposed by Cambridge J-Soc’s Jack Lubner,  passed unanimously, with three students abstaining, and none speaking against it.

The UJS is now mandated to write to the government confirming they oppose oppose their anti-BDS Bill.

Meanwhile, a letter signed in the names of the Noam Masorti Youth, RSY-Netzer, LJZ-Netzer and Habonim Dror youth organisations, and sent to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, has also expressed “grave concerns” over the proposed BDS Bill.

The letter, addressed to Board president Marie van der Zyl, and JLC chair Keith Black, says the proposals “will prevent public bodies from supporting boycotts of or sanctions against countries that violate human rights.”

It added:”We do not support the BDS movement and remain committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

But calling for the Board and the JLC “not to support or advocate for this Bill on behalf of the Jewish community” it continued:”We do not believe that banning BDS in public bodies is an effective way to advocate for Israel – on the contrary, it may well do the opposite.

“Non violent protest can be debated and opposed, it should not be banned.”

The UJS motion noted how Israel’s former president Reuven Rivlin had previously condemned a similar proposed law there which “made no distinctions between boycotts of all of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Part of the youth letter opposing the anti-BDS Bill

The Jewish student body added “students support Israel and want to see peace in the form of a two-state solution as underlined by current UJS policy.

“Erasing the Green Line conflates the West Bank and Gaza with Israel in its internationally recognised borders, which bolsters BDS’s arguments.”

Jewish News has contacted the Board and the JLC for comment.






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