NEWS

Israel Palestine Boycott Ban: Prohibition Of Settlement Goods To Become Criminal Offence For Public Bodies

15/02/2016 11:46 | Updated 15 February 2016

The boycotting of goods produced on settlements in the West Bank by local councils and public bodies is to be outlawed, the government will announce this week.

Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock will reveal details of the new regulations later this week after describing the prohibition of goods, including fresh produce, electronics and waste services as "divisive" and "counter-productive".

Hanock described the "need to challenge and prevent divisive town-hall boycotts." However, a spokesperson for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the move as an affront to local democracy.

bds protest

Boycotts are called against a range of products produced in occupied territories

Boycotts target goods and services produced by Israeli firms on contested territory in the West Bank. Campaigners say that Israel's alleged apartheid is implicitly supported by firms operating in the zone.

While the government plans will limit local authority procurement decisions - they may also impact upon some student unions, an increasing number of which have passed policies governing the sale of consumer goods.

A revealing list of items prescribed for boycott on the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement's website highlights the goods targeted by the campaign - and which may soon be protected by government.

  • Medjoul dates
    vladi79 via Getty Images
  • Medjoul dates are especially popular snacks, but almost exclusively hail from occupied territories on the West Bank.

    Several UK supermarkets continue to stock the dates -- clearly labelling their origin.

    The BDS movement renews its advice before Ramadan each year -- as the dates are traditionally used to break day-long fasts.
  • Jaffa oranges
    Rosemary Calvert via Getty Images
  • Jaffa variety oranges are one of the main types grown in the middle east, traditionally cultivated by Palestinian farmers in the city of Jaffa.

    Yet more recently, the fruits became symbols of the Israeli state - and Israel is now one of the biggest exporters of citrus fruit to the European Union.

    Not all Jaffa variety fruits come from occupied territories, but the BDS movement advises consumers to check the label to make an informed decision.
  • Eden Springs water
    Eden Springs
  • Eden Springs provides water to offices and wholesalers, as well as coffee products, across the UK.

    It's listed on the BDS movement website, which states "the company uses water from a spring in the occupied Golan Heights".

    Eden Springs UK has yet to respond to a request for comment on Monday.
  • Ahava Israeli Cosmetics
    © Matthew Chattle / Alamy
  • Ahava's Dead Sea mineral cosmetics have provoked worldwide anger through their use of "stolen Palestinian natural resources in the Occupied Territory, " according to a campaign against the brand.

    Stolenbeauty.org says that Ahava hides behind a "Made in Israel" claim which "helps finance the destruction of hope for a peaceful and just future for both Israelis and Palestinians."

    Protests outside the firm's London branch caused disruption and damage -- to the extent that it shut the store down.

    Ahava was not immediately contactable on Monday.
  • Ben & Jerry's
    Anthony Pleva / Alamy
  • It's not just Israeli companies affected.

    The American ice cream brand is in the sights of those boycotting Israeli goods through its "long-standing contractual relationship with an Israeli franchise that manufactures ice cream in Israel proper and sells it in Israel settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem."

    Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel have since placed the brand, famous for Baked Alaska and Cookie Dough varieties, on their official boycott list.

    Ben & Jerry's was not available for comment on Monday.

The move comes after some local authorities have moved to use their procurement decisions to challenge Israel's human rights record.

Birmingham City Council threatened to impose a boycott on the services of French waste firm Veolia, which had been operating in the occupied territory on the West Bank.

While in November 2014, Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

bds protest

Protests in support of BDS have taken place across the world

Student unions as Birkbeck University, Kingston University, Swansea University, Brunel University, and University of Arts London are among those which have implemented a policy of BDS against goods produced on the West Bank.

Ali Milani, President of the Union of Brunel Students told HuffPost UK: "Students have always felt that university campuses should be the heart of moral and ethical practices and that companies we work with should be free from occupation and apartheid policies.

"This is the best form of non-violent protest against these - but we feel we're in a strong position to resist this latest move by the government as student unions are charities rather than public institutions."

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A spokesman for the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Independent: “The Government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy.

“People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds.

“This Government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa. Ministers talk about devolution, but in practice they’re imposing Conservative Party policies on elected local councils across the board.”

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