Palestine Campaigners take Government to High Court over Israel Divestment Restrictions
- The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has been granted permission in its judicial review of the changes to rules governing Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) that purport to restrict divestment from Israel. The case will now proceed to a full trial.
- Campaigners are concerned about increasing threats to freedom of expression in UK on Palestine, including government overreach in local democracy, and the rights of pension holders to divest funds.
- In granting permission, the judge described the case as ‘of significant public importance’ and ordered that the trial be expedited to begin as soon as possible after 1st
The government is facing a legal battle with Palestine campaigners over the changes to rules for LGPS that purport to prevent ethical divestments where there are concerns regarding human rights abuses. PSC’s success in obtaining permission in this claim marks a significant blow to the government’s attempt to portray the case as ‘unarguable’ and paves the way for a full trial on the issues, including whether it is legitimate to prevent the LGPS from divesting in Israel as a result of its consistent international law violations.
In October 2015, the government announced new measures governing LGPS with the specific aim of curtailing divestment campaigns against UK defence and international or Israeli firms implicated in Israel’s violations of international law. Ethical decision-making by LGPS is not allowed in areas relating to UK foreign policy or the UK defence industry, although the exact scope of these areas remains uncertain.
In 2005 Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions measures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law. The PSC believes that this is another governmental attempt to undermine the peaceful British BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, which is modelled after the South African anti-apartheid boycott movement.
War on Want and Campaign Against Arms are also supporting the legal challenge with witness statements.
Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said:
“We are delighted that the court has agreed that PSC’s challenge to the Government is of significant public importance and has granted permission for the case to proceed. This represents a huge step in our efforts to overturn the Government’s attempts to prevent pension schemes from making ethical investment decisions. The Guidance represents a wider attack on people’s rights to protest about Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, including via the promotion of the peaceful campaign for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. We are determined to defend both the rights of Palestinians and the ability of citizens everywhere to take action in support of those rights.”
About the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is the largest UK civil society organisation dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights established in 1982. With more than sixty branches across the country, we campaign against Israel’s flouting of international law, the continued military occupation of Palestine, and systematic discrimination against Palestinians. We work to build awareness amongst politicians and the public of the continual injustices and advocate for peaceful and just solutions that respect the rights and dignity of Palestinians and Israelis.
Notes to Editors:
- The Palestine Solidarity Campaign applied for judicial review of the new government measures for LGPS in December 2016.
- Among local authorities, Leicester City Council introduced a boycott of Israeli products linked to settlements on Palestinian territory in 2014, while Swansea City Council has introduced and then ended a boycott. The Scottish Government published a procurement notice to Scottish councils that “strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements”.
- Other government measures to restrict activism for Palestinian human rights and raising awareness of the Israeli state’s abuses include a new definition of antisemitism (adopted December 2016) that includes criticism of the state of Israel.
- Universities became embroiled in a free speech row during February’s Israel Apartheid Week 2017, when several events by Palestinian activists were shut down, and others were obstructed from going forward.
- ‘Prevent Duty’ guidance and materials issued to universities identify activism for Palestinian human rights as a behaviour to watch – and even includes ‘Opposition to Israeli settlements in Gaza’. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and run counter to British foreign policy.