UK Supreme Court declares Israel divestment moves lawful

Thu, 2020-04-30 22:30

LONDON: The UK Supreme Court has overturned a government ban on pension schemes divesting from certain foreign nations and UK defense firms, in a move hailed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) as a “historic victory.”

The ruling reverses a 2016 guidance, issued by the UK Department for Communities and Local Government, and subsequently upheld in 2018 by the Court of Appeal, that prevented Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) from divesting funds in contradiction of British defense policy, including from companies exporting products from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The initial ban was challenged in June 2017 by the PSC, which led to the UK Administrative Court declaring it unlawful, before that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The PSC said it had brought the case over concerns that the ban threatened freedom of expression in the UK, represented government overreach in local authorities, ignored the democratic wishes of people at a local level who might support such a divestment, and denied the right of pension holders to a say in the use of their LGPS.

“This historic victory represents a major win not just for the campaign for Palestinian rights, but for the fundamental principles of democracy, freedom of expression and justice,” said PSC Chairman Kamel Hawwash.

“The Supreme Court ruling sends a decisive message to the UK government that they should not be dictating how LGPS choose to invest their funds, including choosing not to invest in companies complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses,” he added.

“At a time when Israel is continuing to ramp up its oppression of the Palestinian people and its illegal acts, including annexing large swathes of the illegally occupied West Bank, the government should be acting to uphold international law and defend human rights, not attacking peaceful campaigns which seek to do precisely that.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes after the government announced plans to prohibit public bodies from imposing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against foreign countries.

The move, initiated after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s landslide general election victory in December 2019, was taken as a sign of a shift away from the EU in the wake of the UK’s referendum on membership in 2016, and toward geopolitical realignment with the Trump administration, which has been vociferous in its support for Israel’s government.

Israel, and many of its companies operating in the occupied territories, have been on the receiving end of multiple BDS-driven campaigns in the West in recent years.

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