New British government directives are aiming to prevent public bodies, universities, and student unions from boycotting Israeli products, the Independent reported Sunday. According to the Sunday Times, the move “follows mounting concern among Jewish leaders about anti-Semitism.”
British media quoted U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock as saying such boycotts are divisive, potentially damaging to the U.K.’s relationship with Israel, and risk fuelling anti-Semitism.
The new bill, already described as a “controversial crackdown,” seeks to prevent any public body from imposing a boycott on a World Trade Organization member, which Israel has been since 1995. The regulation will essentially outlaw boycotting Israeli products—a threat often made against goods produced in Judea and Samaria—and allow the British government to take legal action against organizations that impose such boycotts.
Under the plan, all publicly funded institutions would be barred from excluding goods produced by their idea of “unethical companies,” such as companies involved in arms trading, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or companies based in Judea and Samaria.
Any public bodies that continue to pursue boycotts would face severe penalties, the Independent reported. Critics of the initiative said it constituted a “gross attack on democratic freedoms.”