The National Jewish Assembly expresses deep concern over Hannah Weisfeld’s recent statement in Parliament regarding the proposed Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill. Whilst representatives from the Board of Deputies (BoD), the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), and Conservative Friends of Israel (CFoI) conveyed their respective organisations’ support of the Bill, Weisfeld, the Director of Yachad, made several troubling claims that mischaracterise the true intention of the Bill and misrepresent the sentiments of the British Jewish community.
Weisfeld’s statement implies that the bill is solely aimed at silencing Israel’s critics, which is a gross misrepresentation of its purpose. The proposed legislation seeks to prevent public bodies from using their powers to boycott or divest from countries, including Israel. This is not an attack on free speech but rather a measure to ensure that public bodies act responsibly in international affairs by curtailing the ability of Local Authorities and other public bodies from acting in opposition to national governmental policy.
Furthermore, Weisfeld’s statement cited a motion passed at the UJS conference, yet glossed over the contentious nature of the motion, failing to acknowledge the significant opposition it faced. As Young NJA Vice Chair Gavriel Solomons stated, “The usage of this motion by UJS, Yachad and others has been manipulative and dishonest to the extreme. Had myself and others attending UJS convention known that our abstentions were to be used as an excuse for various individuals to suggest in parliament that British Jewish students – not just the few hundred who attended a convention dominated by left-wing political activists but all 9000 from across the country – unanimously oppose the government’s bill, we would have seen fit to explicitly vote against the motion.”
Opposition to this legislation is not only misguided but also aligns with the positions of antisemites and movements like BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), which specifically target Israel and are bent on its destruction. By opposing this Bill, Yachad and others risk inadvertently endorsing efforts to single out Israel for boycotts and divestment without facing any consequences.
The NJA urges Jewish communal organisations who take a position on the Bill to restrain themselves from mischaracterising and misrepresenting the intention of the Bill and the sentiments of the community. The NJA calls on Parliament to carefully consider and pass the proposed Bill, recognising its intent to promote responsible conduct by public bodies in overseas matters.