Amnesty International has denounced Israeli rule over the Palestinians as a form of apartheid. But the British government is trying to outlaw the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign and stop it from using the same tactics that helped liberate South Africa.

By Ryvka Barnard, Jacobin

In December of last year, British Conservative politician Robert Jenrick announced that the UK government was “working to outlaw BDS in the UK” and planned to take action in the next few months. Jenrick’s pledge came after his party included a promise to “ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries” in its 2019 general election manifesto.

The threat to outlaw the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign should be seen in its wider context. The Conservative Party has a decisive majority in Parliament, which it has used to bring forward a panoply of laws intended to restrict the right to protest and roll back human rights protections. The upcoming anti-BDS legislation is part of that effort.

A woman holds a sign at an anti-apartheid in Israel rally

The impending anti-BDS law also forms part of an international push by the Israeli government and its supporters to suppress solidarity with the Palestinian people and, by extension, BDS campaigns. We have already seen the fruits of that effort across Europe and in the United States, with state-level laws designed to curtail BDS.

These global efforts appear to be reaching fever pitch just as solidarity with Palestinians continues to grow. Amnesty International’s new, carefully documented report, condemning the regime of apartheid that Israel imposes on Palestinians as “a cruel system of domination” based on “institutionalized and systematic discrimination,” is another blow to Israel’s propaganda offensive. It is precisely because BDS is such an effective tool for campaigns against injustice that we are seeing it expand, but that is also why it has become such a clear target for repression.

Read More