Newly Elected Pro-Israel UK PM Johnson’s First Order of Business: A Bill Combating BDS

December 16, 2019

3 min read

Boris Johnson’s connection to Israel may have been the secret weapon that helped him win a landslide victory in last week’s British election and his first official act reflects that: a powerful anti-Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement law.

Eric Pickles, UK’s Special Envoy for post-Holocaust matters, announced the new law at International Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s conference in Jerusalem on Sunday. Pickles said that the new law would ban public agencies from working with those who boycott Israel in any way.

“BDS is anti-Semitic, and should be treated as such,” Pickles said. “Antisemitism an attack on the British way of life and British identity. Without our Jewish citizens, we would be a lesser nation.

Pickles said that the Labor party’s resounding defeat in the election showed that the British people rejected anti-Semitism. It should be noted that the Labour Party supported pro-BDS legislation.

The final results showed 43.6% of the vote to the Conservative party led by Johnson, giving them 364 seats in the Parliament, the party’s best showing since Margaret Thatcher’s last victory in 1987. Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, got 32.25% of the vote, giving them 203 seats, its worst showing since 1935.

The law will fulfill a campaign promise listed in its election policy manifesto released last month. 

“We will ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries. These undermine community cohesion,” the document read.

While still mayor, Johnson became the focus of threats for speaking out against BDS. On a trade trip to Israel in 2015, Johnson has had to cancel planned public events in Judea and Samaria because of security fears after he criticized backers of a boycott on Israeli goods. He described advocates of BDS as a “bunch of corduroy-jacketed lefty academics.”

“I cannot think of anything more foolish than to say that you want to have any kind of divestment or sanctions or whatever or boycott against a country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region, is the only place that has, in my view, a pluralist, open society,” he said to reporters at the time. “You know, why boycott Israel? And by the way, I think there’s some misunderstanding of it over here about it, but the supporters of this so-called boycott are really just a bunch of, you know, corduroy-jacketed academics from, you know, lefty – not that there’s anything wrong with wearing corduroy jackets, I hasten to say! – but they are, by and large, lefty academics who have no real standing in the matter and I think are highly unlikely to be influential on Britain. And this is a very very small minority in our country who are calling for this, so bear that in mind.”

Last Thursday, the Conservative party led by Johnson won 43.6% of the vote, giving them 364 seats in the Parliament. Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, got 32.25% of the vote, giving them 203 seats. Though the main issue in the campaign was Brexit, with Johnson leading the faction that wanted to split from the European Union, the Labour party was breaking far left, advocating increasingly socialized policies.  Allegations of anti-Semitism plagued Corbyn and his party for some time. Corbyn stated in public several times that if elected, he would immediately recognize a Palestinian State inside the borders of Israel. He has also been accused of having relations with terrorist organizations and during a meeting in parliament in 2009, Corbyn referred to Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends.

Johnson, on the other hand, had family ties with Judaism and had a positive experience while volunteering on a kibbutz when he was 20 years old. Johnson refers to himself as a “passionate Zionist” who “loves the great country” of Israel. This identity came out into the public arena when he became the Mayor of London 11 years ago. Johnson denounced the BDS movement and noted that Israel is the only “pluralist, open society” in the entire Middle East region. He has openly criticized the United Nations Human Rights Council for their obsession with Israel’s so-called human rights violations.

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