BDS and the law

According to this report in the Jewish Chronicle the government plans to use legislation to stop local councils using their procurements policies to boycott Israeli goods.

It will aim to stop councils running divesting campaigns against UK defence companies and Israeli interests.

The Conservatives said ministers had taken note of concerns about the actions of some Labour-led authorities which were threatening to “poison community relations and harm Britain’s economic and international interests”.

Details of the new measures were announced today, ahead of the Tories’ annual conference in Manchester which opens on Sunday.

The party said it was acting after listening to faith leaders who were worried about policies which fuel antisemitism.

It cited the case of kosher food being removed from supermarket shelves during last year’s Gaza conflict and the controversy over the Tricycle Theatre’s call for the UK Jewish Film Festival to return funding from the Israeli embassy.

(Neither the kosher food incident nor the Tricycle Theatre controversy seem directly relevant to the specific issue of local councils’ boycott policies.)  There is clearly an intersection between BDS and antisemitism.  However Holocaust denial, which is unambiguously antisemitic, is not illegal. It is true that Holocaust denial is a free speech issue whereas boycotting is an action, not simply an expression of opinion. But is legislation the best way of dealing with this issue?