The government wants to ban boycotting Israel. Help to fight the ban

The Government has published a Bill to ban universities and other public bodies (including their pension funds) from boycotting or divesting from companies because of their complicity with foreign regimes. This bill if passed will drastically curtail our civil liberties. The Bill singles out Israel as the principal regime that the legislation is intended to protect.

The Bill will not only make it an offence to boycott those who do business with apartheid Israel. There is also a gagging clause to prevent Universities and other bodies from saying publicly that they would have boycotted Israel had this action not been banned by the Government. This is a direct attack on our political freedoms, our civil liberties and specifically our freedom of speech.

BRICUP is part of the campaign to oppose this legislation. The most effective opposition to this attack on our civil liberties is to make a personal commitment not to deal with Israeli institutions, corporations, or complicit companies. Academic staff and teachers have a particular opportunity:

It is to add our names to the Academic Commitment for Palestine. You can sign here:


What the Bill does, and why it must be opposed.

The Bill (Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters)) seeks to ban universities and other public bodies from boycotting companies or organisations that operate in countries that commit human rights violations or breaches of international law – unless of course the boycott is in line with UK Government foreign or trade policies.

This Bill is designed specifically to target the BDS movement for Palestinian rights. It has wording that allows exemptions from the blanket ban on boycotts to be made by the Government. Uniquely, however, it says that no exemption can be made for boycotts focussed on Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or the Golan Heights.

So, if the Bill is passed boycotting Russia for its unlawful invasion and occupation of Ukraine will be permitted but similar action targeting Israel for its forcible 56-year occupation will be a crime. It seeks to grant Israel exceptional status, rendering it uniquely immune from accountability for its actions.

Had this Bill been in force in the 1980s, it would have been unlawful for public bodies to boycott the goods and services of South African companies during the white-supremacist Apartheid regime, or to divest from or boycott UK companies that were complicit in that racist oppression. The 16-year and ultimately successful campaign to get Barclays Bank to pull out of South Africa would have been impossible.

Today, Israel is in breach of international law through its illegal settlements on occupied land, its extra-judicial killing of Palestinians, its serial bombing and shelling of Gaza, its refusal to allow refugees to return to their homes, its systematic discrimination against Palestinians in Israel, its destruction of Palestinian homes and schools, and its attempt to terrorise millions of Palestinians into abandoning the West Bank and become refugees themselves. It is these policies that have led Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the respected Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem to find the state of Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid in all the land that it controls.

This Bill doesn’t just target public bodies. The Government’s aim is also to delegitimise criticism of Israel and so protect its ally from any and all forms of both individual and collective sanction for its policies and actions. One appropriate response to this assault on our freedom of judgment, and of expression too, is a public commitment as teachers and academics that we will not be intimidated, and will continue to hold Israel to account.

At its recent congress UCU passed a motion reiterating its support for the right to boycott Israel. BRICUP is part of an impressive coalition of other organisations, including UCU, whose aim is to stop this legislation. Colleagues can access the campaign here:

BRICUP will publish updates on the campaign on this website

There is one critical thing that all academics and teachers can do now to oppose this legislation. We can register our opposition, and support the right to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, by joining many hundreds of others in signing the Academic Commitment for Palestine. You can sign the Commitment here:


The Commitment

As scholars associated with UK universities and colleges, and responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, we declare that we will not:

  • accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions;
  • act as referees in any of their processes;
  • participate in conferences funded, organised or sponsored by them, or otherwise cooperate with them.

We will, however, continue to work with our Israeli colleagues in their individual capacities.

This commitment is our response to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and the intolerable human rights violations inflicted on all sections of the Palestinian people. We will maintain this position until the State of Israel complies with international law, and respects universal principles of human rights.