Matthew Hancock was in Israel when he announced that democratically elected Town Councils would be prevented from boycotting firms complicit in Israeli Apartheid.
He states “We need to challenge and prevent these divisive town hall boycotts.” So a Tory Cabinet Minister does not want to be divisive! Can we expect a repeal of the Bedroom tax, repeal of the anti union legislation? and a repeal of the tax cuts for the super rich on the grounds that they are all divisive? I don’t think so.
Every law is divisive. When they passed a law stating that theft is illegal, all the thieves were discriminated against and rightly so. When we in Palestine Solidarity say Israel has been stealing land since 1948, this is a simple statement of fact. Israel has been using its military, economic and diplomatic muscle to oppress the Palestinians for the last seventy years. In 2005 the bulk of Palestinian Civil Society asked us to adopt a strategy of Boycott, divestment and sanctions as a way of putting pressure on Israel to end its repression.
The demand for BDS is divisive. On the one side stands people with compassion and solidarity for the oppressed. On the other are the oppressors and their allies. It was ever thus. Cameron’s forefathers were slave owners. Opposed to them were the slaves and the anti slavery campaigners like Wilberforce. In the last century white supremacists ran Apartheid South Africa. They were supported by the British and the American establishments. The Blacks organised and resisted supported by the huge Anti Apartheid movement. Even David Cameron says that Thatcher was wrong to have called the African National Congress terrorist and to have opposed sanctions.
So why do they want to rob local authorities of the right to make ethical decisions? Easy, they would lose the debate.
Whether the Government has the legal power to instruct local authorities to ignore such things as reputational damage is another issue.