Demonstration for Palestine, London. Photo: Sara Sammak Demonstration for Palestine, London. Photo: Sara Sammak

In a historic victory, the government’s attempts to outlaw Palestine solidarity has been pushed back after a successful legal battle, reports Sara Sammak

On Tuesday April 28th, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) won a landmark victory against the Government’s attempts to make the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement illegal.

The Supreme Court has now officially ruled that the Government’s ban on ethical pensions is unlawful, overturning the previous Court of Appeal decision.

The legal battles started back in 2017, after the Government issued guidance in 2016 that prohibited councils from divesting from Israeli industries, which prevented the councils’ attempts to withdraw investments in attempts to stand up for the rights of Palestinians.

It is now confirmed that Local Government Pension Schemes are lawfully able to divest from companies complicit with the Israeli occupation of Palestine, quashing the Government’s attempts to bring in regulations that made it unlawful.

Palestinian rights campaigners declared this as a massive victory and a big step forward in the Palestinian solidarity movement for Palestinians and campaigners across the globe.

Jamie Potter, partner in the Public Law and Human Rights team at Bindmans LLP, and solicitor representing PSC stated:

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s confirmation that the Government went too far in imposing its political opinions onto the management of the money of LGPS members. LGPS members now have the freedom to pursue their own principles in respect of the role of the arms trade and foreign countries in violations of human rights around the world, when determining how their pension monies are invested”

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a Palestinian-led movement for justice, freedom and to protect the basic human rights of Palestinians who are under an unlawful occupation by Israel. The movement was also inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement.

The aims of the BDS movement are to put pressure on Israel to comply with international law and to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people including the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Britain has played a historic role in enabling the ethnic cleansing and occupation of Palestine, and continues to collude with Israel’s apartheid system, widespread human rights abuses and barbaric violence against Palestinians. The British government has sold millions in weapons to Israel, even as it committed war crimes, and has consistently supported the Israeli government diplomatically despite its constant international law violations.

But Britain has also had one of the strongest Palestine solidarity movements in the world. The growth of the movement with mass mobilisations of hundreds of thousands and increasingly effective BDS campaigns have been a thorn in the British government’s side and part of turning public consciousness against its foreign policy objectives in the Middle East. This is why they’ve worked in the last decade to stifle pro-Palestine voices and outlaw anti-Zionism, and why this legal victory is so important.

A historic victory

PSC Vice-Chair Kamel Hawwash states:

“This historic victory represents a major win not just for the campaign for Palestinian rights, but for the fundamental principles of democracy, freedom of expression and justice.”

Activists and human rights campaigners have made a great example of what campaigning and putting pressure on the Government can do. It is important to stand for democracy, freedom of speech and the right to protest.

The Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto and subsequent Queen’s speech announced plans for a further clampdown on BDS. The court’s decision is a big step forward in stopping the outlawing of Palestine solidarity, but we know we have to remain organised to ensure the Tories can’t get away with stopping us campaigning for Palestine.

Sara Sammak

Sara Sammak is a British Palestinian activist who works with the Stop the War Coalition and writes for Counterfire