Protecting the Right to Boycott

ICJP are working to oppose the government’s Anti-Boycott Bill, with the intention of preventing it from passing into law. Together with partners from over 75 civil society organisations collaborating under the Right To Boycott coalition, we are working with parliamentary and campaigner stakeholders to stop this attack on freedom of expression and global human rights. 

The ‘Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters)’ Bill, currently progressing through Parliament, is an attempt to quash the ability to boycott Israeli apartheid by placing stringent restrictions on over one hundred thousand ‘public authorities’ within the United Kingdom. 

This Anti-Boycott Bill will prevent bodies such as universities and local authorities from being able to make procurement, investment, and business decisions in pursuance of human rights, environmental justice, or in line with the obligations of international law. It will be made illegal for these public authorities to make decisions in light of the conduct of specific countries, with the government claiming that this will allow the UK to ‘speak with one voice internationally’. Some countries could, by Ministerial decision, be excluded from these restrictions – but the Bill explicitly states that Israel can never be excluded and can never be subjected to a boycott or divestment campaign. 

The Bill would strip local democracies of their decision-making ability. Severely curtailing freedoms of expression, thought, and conscience, someone working in a ‘public authority’ would be forbidden, under a ‘double-bind gagging clause’, from even stating that they would support a boycott campaign were it would be legal to do so. 

The Bill enshrines the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights as being permanently protected under UK law, with Israel and the territories it occupies being singled out as forever non-excludable from the Bill’s ban on boycotts. The ICJP’s legal experts have concluded that the Bill is incompatible with international law – while the government’s own lawyers, too, have identified that it contravenes the UK’s international obligations. 

It is the ICJP’s contention that this Bill is short-sighted, anti-democratic, and undermines the protection of human rights. Boycott campaigns have a proud history in this country of advancing struggles for rights and justice internationally – often running against contemporaneous government positions when they do so. 

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) stands with our partners in the Right to Boycott coalition in working to halt this legislation, protect local democratic institutions and their ability to trade in line with human rights and international law, and to uphold the ethos of the Palestinian-led, anti-racist and non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.  

Media coverage: 

The Anti-Boycott Bill would restrict Civil Liberties and could break international law. This madness must be stopped. Tayab Ali, Islam Channel. January 10th 2024

MP, activists slam exclusion of Palestinians from UK anti-boycott bill hearing. The New Arab, September 14th, 2023.

UK groups urge government to drop anti-boycott bill aimed at shielding Israel, People’s Dispatch, June 20th 2023 

Dozens of groups oppose UK’s anti-divestment bill singling out Israeli boycotts, Middle East Eye, June 19th 2023 

UK anti-boycott bill is an attack on freedom of expression, say civil society groups, The Guardian, May 12th 2023 

Dangers of UK’s anti-boycott bill discussed in parliament. Middle East Monitor, April 28th, 2023.

Events and press releases: 

Last chance’- ICJP calls on MPs to take a stand against draconian ‘anti-boycott bill’, January 10th, 2024 

Anti-boycott Bill: ICJP statement regarding the exclusion of Palestinian voices at committee stage‘, September 14th, 2023

‘Orwellian doesn’t cut it’- The Big Brother Anti-boycott Bill that may breach international law’, June 20th, 2023 

Protecting the Right to Boycott Conference’, May 17th, 2023