Starmer’s abstention habit kicks in again, this time to prevent local authority action against illegal settlements
Labour leader Keir Starmer has ordered the party’s MPs to abstain in today’s vote on the government’s ‘Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, which amounts to a bill to ban councils from implementing a ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) policy against goods and services from illegal Israeli settlements to defend Palestinians and their homes and land – a pro-Apartheid bill, in effect, helping to prop up the racist treatment of Palestinians by Israel’s extremist right-wing regime.
Skwawkbox understands that Labour will first submit a token ‘Reasoned Amendment’ and then, if this falls as expected, has told its MPs to abstain.
Amnesty International has condemned Michael Gove’s legislation as ‘outrageous’ for its ban on local authority action on issues such as climate change and the arms trade, as well as for specifically protecting Israel from sanctions against Israeli apartheid:
This bill is an unwarranted encroachment on the ability of public bodies to pursue ethical procurement and investment policies.
It’s outrageous that the Government is trying to prevent councils from using their procurement budgets to leverage positive human rights change.
People who care about issues such as climate justice or the arms trade will be dismayed by this legislation, seeing it as a door slammed in their face.
The bill’s especially hardline position on human rights campaigns concerning Israel’s human rights record shows that the legislation is in part driven by a desire to prevent opposition to Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians.
If this pernicious bill becomes law, it will close off a key means to hold companies to account and once again show that this Government thinks little of the plight of persecuted communities around the world.
Speaking to the New Arab, Amnesty’s Peter Frankental added that the planned law is ‘clearly incompatible’ with the UK’s existing human rights obligations:
The proposed legislation is clearly incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, threatening to breach Articles 8 [privacy] and 10 [freedom of expression], and may also be in contravention of Article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Around 700,000 Israelis now live in almost three hundred settlements in the occupied West Bank that are illegal under international law and the UN Human Rights Council has condemned the Israeli government’s expressed intention to accelerate its programme in order to double the number of settlements by 2027. Michael Gove is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel and has described himself as a lifelong Zionist.
Starmer’s order to abstain is a tactic he has frequently used in order to enable Tory legislation attacking human rights, notably the ‘Spycops’ legislation to give immunity from prosecution to undercover agents and their civilian sources for crimes including rape and murder, and the Tories’ laws to make democratic protest punishable by unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison.
He has been described as a ‘long-time servant of the British security state’ whose tenure as Director of Public Prosecutions was marked by decisions not to prosecute Jimmy Savile or the police killers of Jean-Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson, and by the destruction of key evidence in the Julian Assange extradition case. He has previously declared himself to be a supporter of Zionism ‘without qualification’.
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