By Joe Burns, Commission Member
This year, the Commission sponsored the final film of the Leeds Palestinian Film Festival. It took place in Wheeler Hall, Leeds Cathedral, on 9th December and was watched by over 60 people. In addition, Ben Jamal (Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign) led a post-film discussion.
The film concerned efforts within state legislatures in the US to pass laws that meant anyone wanting to do business with state agencies (or, indeed, employees) had to sign a declaration that they would not boycott any goods from Israel. It also highlighted the role of various organisations in developing standard wording for such laws and the promotion of such ‘boilerplate’ legislation.
It was disturbing to watch evangelical Christians saying that Jews would only reclaim Israel in the ‘end times’ so it was important to support Israel in every way possible.
The film was very well constructed. However, if you just watched the film, it would have been easy to go away thinking that it was just Americans being a bit bonkers and aren’t we glad to be living in the UK. Thank goodness that the festival committee had obtained Ben Jamal to provide some input after the film. He detailed how similar legislation is finding its way into the UK.
In February of this year the Government banned boycotts of Israeli companies by public pension funds. PSC took legal action on this, with the support of the unions representing public sector workers. It has very recently been declared unlawful by the Supreme Court.
However, the current Conservative Government still has such anti-boycott legislation waiting to be introduced in Parliament.
Kamel Hawwash, Chair of PSC, has commented, “The drive to implement an anti-boycott policy suggests that Britain will never hold Israel to account for its crimes, for fear it could upset the Jewish community in the UK. It is worth noting here that members of the Jewish community hold different views on Israel, and many have strong objections to Israel’s apartheid policies and oppression of Palestinians.”
The wording of proposed legislation should ring alarm bells far wider than justice for the Palestinian people. It would basically give the Government power to ban boycotts against any country or industry. There is now a growing coalition in the UK to fight this proposed legislation. This coalition includes PSC and other supporters of justice for Palestinians but also includes faith leaders, environmental organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth as well as many trade unions. It is only too probable that such legislation would be used to ban boycotts of fossil fuel companies.
Perhaps we should all be a bit more concerned about it???