PLO officials on Wednesday slammed British proposals to forbid a boycott of Israeli settlement goods by publicly-funded British institutions, saying they “would empower the Israeli occupation by sending a message of impunity.”
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi and Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said in a joint statement that the proposed regulation marked a “serious regression in British policy” that both hindered the two-state solution and neglected the rights of British citizens.
After meeting with UK Minister for Middle East Affairs Tobias Ellwood, the officials said the plans would in effect ban “any kind of ethical procurement” by local governments, public bodies and publicly-funded organizations, including some student unions.
They said it sent a message of “impunity” to Israel regarding its continued expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, considered illegal under international law.
Referring to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which Britain pledged its support for the creation of a Jewish national homeland, the officials said Britain bore “the primary responsibility” for “historical injustice in Palestine.”
They called on Britain “to begin the process of rectification and redemption rather than to insist on perpetuating the injustice.”
The statement said it was “no longer acceptable for any government to claim support for the two-state solution while granting immunity to Israeli crimes and systematic violations of international law and UN resolutions.d
“Those who claim to seek the two-state solution should hold Israel accountable for deliberately destroying the prospects of peace and should work on ending the Israeli occupation rather than rewarding it.”
The officials noted that the new regulations would have “prevented British citizens from taking peaceful actions” against South Africa during the apartheid era.
They said the regulations would prohibit public bodies from “exercising their democratic right and freedom of choice not to be complicit in the Israeli settlement project.”
They added: “In order to accommodate the Israeli occupation, the British Government is undermining British democracy and their own people’s rights.”
If implemented, the UK measure would be seen by some as a step back for the boycott movement following a recent EU decision to prohibit settlement products — as well as any other goods made in the occupied territories — from being labelled “Made in Israel.”
The labeling regulation was applauded by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to place economic pressure on Israel to meets its obligations under international law, as occurred with South Africa.
Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the UK branch of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, also slammed Britain’s proposed regulation on Wednesday.
“By undermining local democracy in service of Israel, David Cameron is standing on the wrong side of history, just as Margaret Thatcher did with her support for apartheid South Africa,” Ziadah said.
“The BDS movement in the UK has achieved wide support precisely because of the failure of successive UK governments to take action in response to Israel’s war crimes.”