The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) is an independent organisation of lawyers, academics and politicians that works to protect and support the rights of Palestinians. ICJP was established with the objective of seeking justice and accountability for Israel’s longstanding, systematic violations of the rights of Palestinians under international law, including those which amount to international crimes.
In our view, it is totally unacceptable that the Public Bill Committee for the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill has excluded Palestinian individuals and organisations from providing oral evidence to the committee.
The bill is clearly aimed at the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an anti-racist, non-violent movement initiated by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations aimed at pressuring Israel to comply with its obligations under international law. It is astounding that not only have representatives of the BDS movement not been invited to give oral evidence, but that in fact, no Palestinian organisation whatsoever has been invited.
Failure to invite any Palestinian organisations to give evidence at committee stage is a dangerous and discriminatory decision that will inevitably lead to inadequate and one-sided scrutiny of the bill. It risks neglecting the impact that this bill will have on the suppression of the BDS movement in the UK. This in turn threatens to lead to an increase in anti-Palestinian racism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Furthermore, the extent of this discrimination is itself apparent in the decision to exclude Palestinian voices from this process.
In contrast, several organisations that claim to represent the Jewish community in the United Kingdom were invited to attend and give oral evidence to the committee. These organisations include the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council. It is irresponsible, reckless and frankly antithetical to the premise of a Public Bill Committee to construct an echo chamber of oral evidence in order to reaffirm the government’s position on a specific piece of legislation.
Conservative Friends of Israel were also invited to give evidence, whilst Conservative Friends of Palestine and Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East were not invited. In the interests of legitimate scrutiny, there is no apparent reason why these organisations were not invited to give oral evidence. In lieu of any apparent reason for their omission, it would seem that these organisations were intentionally omitted in order to exclude Palestinian voices from sharing their perspectives with the committee.
Though groups opposing the bill were invited, none of these groups were invited with the intention of specifically addressing the anti-Palestinian racism that lies at the heart of this bill. It is appropriate and correct that groups were invited to address the broader civil liberties infringements and environmental damage that this bill is likely to cause, but proper and all-encompassing scrutiny would require oral evidence dealing specifically with the discussion of anti-Palestinian racism, which is glaringly lacking.
To assuage the concerns of the Palestinian community in the UK and internationally, there should have been an immediate and clear remediation of this issue. The BDS movement and other leading Palestinian voices in the country should have been invited to give evidence on the impact that this bill is likely to have on fostering anti-Palestinian racism. As that has not been done, serious doubts will be cast over the extent of meaningful scrutiny of this bill.
Notes to Editors
- The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law.
- For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact: Jonathan Purcell, Public Affairs and Communications Officer, at [email protected]