In the aftermath of Israel’s renewed onslaught on Gaza, Amnesty International UK echoed the PMUK’s denouncing of the bill, calling the October draft version dangerous and draconian.
A proposal for a new law in the United Kingdom, which seeks to restrict public bodies from making procurement decisions based on “political or moral disapproval of foreign state conduct” has sparked condemnation from the Palestine Mission to the UK (PMUK).
The PMUK is especially concerned as the bill specifies that the proposed legislation “specifically or mainly” relates to Israel, the occupied Palestinian Territories or the occupied Golan Heights.
The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill successfully passed the third reading stage at the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The New Arab reported that the bill was backed by 282 members of parliament, while over 235 MPs voted against it.
It is now set to undergo a first reading at the upper chamber, the House of Lords (HoL), for renewed legal scrutiny.
If the bill reaches Royal Assent, the final stage in the British legal process, public bodies, such as local councils, could face prosecution at the British High Court for boycotting or disinvesting with Israel – unless government guidance is given to do so.
In a communique published on Wednesday before the bill was passed to the HoL, the PMUK denounced this move as granting Israel exceptional treatment and impunity to continue committing atrocities in occupied Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian Health Ministry estimated that Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza since October 7 has climbed the Gaza death toll to 23,469 people.
International human rights watchdogs estimate a far grimmer figure, taking into account the casualties trapped under the rubble that rescuers are unable to reach.
Reiterating that the UK does not recognise occupied Palestinian territories as part of Israel, the PMUK added, “For this reason, goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the oPt are not entitled to tariff or trade preferences”.
The communique also drew attention to Israel’s continued genocidal campaign against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
“The bill, if passed, not only shields Israel from accountability but also places Israel above the provisions of international law and poses a significant threat to the entire international system,” the diplomatic mission said.
This sentiment was echoed earlier by Amnesty International UK when the bill was still in an earlier draft phase.
In a press release published on October 23 2023, in the aftermath of Israel’s renewed onslaught of the Gaza Strip, Amnesty UK slammed the bill as “dangerous and draconian”.
Calling on the UK Parliament to overhaul the bill, Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, warned it would “stifle free speech among members of public bodies and is likely to deter even the most modest efforts to procure goods and services free from slavery, environmental harm and other human rights abuses.”
Deshmukh also called out a double standard where, according to her, the UK would ordinarily uphold and promote human rights within business practices. However, this proposed law to shield Israel from needing to uphold this benchmark, “flies in the face of that,” she added.