Don’t Silence the Occupation of Palestine

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2016 National Delegate Conference
29 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference is concerned at the introduction of new laws in Britain, the US and Israel, intended to silence those who campaign for the rights of the Palestinian people.

In October 2015 the Conservative government announced they would introduce new rules “to stop politically-motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel.” The proposed rules will restrict the ability of local authorities to consider the risks of making pension investments in or procuring services from companies which are involved in the illegal occupation of Palestine.

In June 2015 the US government approved the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act” which sets out their principles for negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The act includes provisions to actively discourage actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel and businesses in Israel or the occupied territories. This is a deliberate attempt to use TTIP negotiations to undermine international law and existing European Union measures on trade with the occupied territories.

The Israeli government is supporting a proposed new law prohibiting activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) from entering the country. They are also supporting a proposed law, seen as primarily targeting groups which campaign against the occupation, requiring organisations to provide details of the countries funding their activities in any communication with elected officials, and requiring employees to wear special tags when working in Israel’s parliament.

These new laws seek to undermine the growing success of the BDS movement and prevent or restrict divestment from companies that are involved in the illegal occupation. They attempt to delegitimise international law and several UN conventions, which confirm that the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal.

The Israeli government has continued its programme of rapid settlement expansion in the West Bank, denying increasing numbers of Palestinians access to their land, and undermining prospects of a two state solution. Settler violence towards the Palestinian population has also increased dramatically, with limited, if any, sanctions for the perpetrators.

Conference believes that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns are a legitimate and practical way to persuade the Israeli government to end its repression of the Palestinian people, and contribute towards the building of peace. The BDS Movement is a response to the calls of the Palestinian people for end to repression and the right to self determination. It is a rapidly growing movement which has been highly successful in persuading companies to end their involvement with the illegal occupation.

As the BDS movement has grown, so has the campaign against it. Many local authorities and others have been threatened with legal action, seeking to reverse democratic decisions on ethical investments regarding Israel and the illegal occupation of Palestine. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in particular has faced increasing attempts to delegitimise its work.

Conference instructs the National Executive Council to:

1)Campaign for the repeal of restrictive laws which seek to silence those who campaign for Palestinian rights;

2)Continue to campaign for an end to the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza;

3)Defend the right of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to support the rights of the Palestinian people without intimidation or harassment;

4)To encourage all UNISON branches to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign;

5)Pursue the policies and strategy already decided upon at last year’s National Delegate Conference, with particular reference to positive BDS campaigning, and in supporting the continued struggle to secure the Rights and Aspirations of the Palestinian People.