UK officially says BDS movement “fuels anti-Semitism”
Here is the press release by the UK government saying that boycotting Israel by public institutions is illegal. They are simply highlighting existing laws and agreements that make all boycotts of countries under the WTO illegal.
Notably, the press release explicitly says that the boycotts pushed by the BDS movement are “fuelling anti-Semitism.”
Note also that the same press release also reiterates support for labeling all goods from the territories:
Guidance published today makes clear that procurement boycotts by public authorities are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the government.
Town hall boycotts undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarising debate, weakening integration and fuelling anti-Semitism.
Locally imposed boycotts can roll back integration as well as hinder Britain’s export trade and harm international relationship.
All contracting authorities will be impacted by this new guidance including central government, executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies, the wider public sector, local authorities and NHS bodies. Any public body found to be in breach of the regulations could be subject to severe penalties.
The World Trade Organisation Government Procurement Agreement – an international market access agreement – requires all those countries that have signed up to the Agreement to treat suppliers equally. This includes the EU and Israel. Any discrimination against Israeli suppliers involving procurements would therefore be in breach of the Agreement.
The guidance published today complements existing government guidance about trading or investing overseas (including with Israel), where we advise UK businesses to consider any potential legal and economic risks of doing so. It is also in line with the government’s existing policy of support for clear and transparent labelling of settlement products to ensure that individual consumers are able to make informed choices before they buy.
Cabinet Office Minister, Matthew Hancock said:
We need to challenge and prevent these divisive town hall boycotts. The new guidance on procurement combined with changes we are making to how pension pots can be invested will help prevent damaging and counter-productive local foreign policies undermining our national security.
We support UK local authorities, businesses and individual consumers alike in making informed choices about how they procure services and products from overseas.
Here are the actual guidelines that were issued, which do not mention Israel at all:
Procurement Policy Note: Ensuring compliance with wider international obligations when letting public contracts
Information Note 01/16 17th February 2016
1. This PPN sets out contracting authorities’ international obligations when letting public contracts. It makes clear that boycotts in public procurement are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the UK Government.
Dissemination and Scope
2. This PPN is directly applicable to all contracting authorities, including Central Government, Executive Agencies, Non Departmental Public Bodies, wider public sector, local authorities and NHS bodies. Please circulate this document (for information) within your organisation, including where relevant to Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies and other contracting authorities for which you are responsible, drawing it to the attention of those with a purchasing role.
3. The UK has a longstanding and widely accepted policy that applies to all public contracts, of ensuring value for money in public procurement, as set out in HMT’s Managing Public Money. Value for money is defined as securing the best mix of quality and effectiveness for the least outlay over the period of use of the goods or services bought. That definition has recently been updated to make clearer that the key factor is whole life cost, not necessarily the lowest purchase price.
4. Further, wider policy objectives (such as economic or employment-related considerations) can be pursued through the procurement process where they are linked to the subject-matter of the contract. The new Public Contract Regulations (PCR) 2015 also provide flexibility for authorities to take account of wider matters in the procurement process, such as social and environmental factors. Contracting authorities may apply these flexibilities where relevant, ensuring always that all suppliers are treated equally and without discrimination.
5. The UK’s regime of procurement rules (the PCR 2015), derives largely from the EU procurement directives and the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) – an international market access agreement. These rules impose a legal obligation on public authorities when awarding contracts above certain thresholds to treat EU and GPA 2 suppliers equally, and not discriminate by, amongst other things, favouring national suppliers. There are remedies available through the courts for breaches of these rules, such as damages, fines and ineffectiveness (contract cancellation). The European Commission can also bring legal proceedings against the UK Government for alleged breaches of EU law by a UK contracting authority. This can lead to formal action being required to rectify the breach, and substantial fines against the Government. The Government will always involve the relevant contracting authority in these proceedings.
6. Suppliers from “third countries” (which are neither part of the EU, nor the GPA or other international free-trade agreements with the EU) do not enjoy access to our remedies system if they are discriminated against. However, third country suppliers could, potentially, offer the best value for money outcome, so the UK Government expects that its authorities will deal with bids from such third countries in the same way as EU or GPA countries.
7. Public procurement should never be used as a tool to boycott tenders from suppliers based in other countries, except where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the UK Government. There are wider national and international consequences from imposing such local level boycotts. They can damage integration and community cohesion within the United Kingdom, hinder Britain’s export trade, and harm foreign relations to the detriment of Britain’s economic and international security. As highlighted earlier, it can also be unlawful and lead to severe penalties against the contracting authority and the Government.
8. Enquiries about this PPN should be directed to the Crown Commercial Service Helpdesk (telephone 0345 410 2222, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
The PLO is furious, and is using the “peace process” that they oppose as a reason to boycott Israel:
“This policy puts the UK in the position of defending Israel’s occupation, expansion, racism and colonialism,” said Husam Zomlot, ambassador-at-large for the Palestinian leadership.
“It is a bullet at the heart of peacemaking because peace will only come when Israel is under pressure and feels consequences for its illegal actions.”
That is the entire PLO foreign policy message in a single sentence. They have no responsibilities, only rights, including many that no one else has.
Peace-seeker Zomlot likes analogies to bullets, because he also told Financial Times “This is a bullet at the very heart of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East and the very heart of democracy in Britain.”
We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.