It seems like no sooner did the British government issue its new regulations aimed at “banning” boycotts of Israel than the move backfired. “BDS,” the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement,protesters declared in response, “is here to stay.” There was immediate talk of defying any ban, with civil disobedience if necessary. That may not be needed: while the full facts are still being debated, according to lawyers who spoke to anti-poverty charity War on Want, “there is nothing new in the new procurement guidance aside from some overblown rhetoric clearly intended to scare campaigners.”
The “BDS ban” in fact is no real ban at all. It has essentially restated existing legislation, campaigners say. This is likely to be tested in courts, however. Although Israeli campaigns of “lawfare” (tying campaigners up using spurious litigation in courts around the world) have often proven fruitless, even disastrous in the past, it seems Israel’s supporters have not given up the strategy.
Such litigation can be costly for BDS activists, who are almost all volunteers and have little in the way of serious funding to defend against such cases. Local councils do have more serious resources to defend their democratic mandates. But with ever increasingly budget cuts, thanks to Conservative austerity, they may prove unwilling to fight back against such cases: they’d often rather avoid them altogether if the popular pressure is not enough.
Read more over at MEMO.