Members of the Jewish community in Stamford Hill
Members of the Jewish community in Stamford HillGetty Images

The government today announced new regulations preventing local councils, NHS Trusts, universities and other public bodies from boycotting trade and investment with any of 162 member countries of the World Trade Organisation. Of course Canada and New Zealand don't require such sweeping safeguards to protect their trade deals, so you don't need to be Ban Ki-moon to see this wide net has been cast to primarily protect just one state – Israel.

These new regulations curb councils through central government legislation, so the anti-democratic argument is clear.

The move also creates an almighty problem in terms of cross-party opposition to Israel boycotts. Before parliament spoke as one. Now, suddenly, boycotts are a party political hot potato.

Jeremy Corbyn stated this week that curbing council independence is "an attack on local democracy". I may need to lie down in a dark room for agreeing with him. But despite the drawbacks and dangers, the government's ends in this case justify its means. Just.

Because I don't know an alternative to stem the ideological onslaught of Israel-hating and Jew-baiting, camouflaged as right-on political concern.

Because I don't know of any other country – not Nigeria, Somalia or Sudan – targeted by a local council or an NHS trust or in recent times. The words Israel' and 'boycott' 'are now synonymous across parts of England, Scotland and Wales.

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Because Britain has become the European capital of maniacal Israel bashing and its lunatic fringe – the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Because the atmosphere is becoming uncomfortable – even intolerable – for British Jews, especially students, who are often on the receiving end.

This week the Jewish co-chair of Oxford University's Labour Club quit, claiming a large number of fellow students "have some kind of problem with Jews" after the club endorsed Israel Apartheid Week.

Last week London's King's College pledged to punish pro-Palestinian thugs who set off fire alarms, smashed a window and hurled chairs at a Jewish Society event.

Of course Israel doesn't need government intervention to protect it from bullsh*t boycotts. They have zero impact on a country the UK heavily relies on.

Annual trade between Israel and the UK is worth £4bn ($5.7bn). Business is booming and growing at a rapid rate. The UK is Israel's biggest export market after the USA.

As I write this the UK and Israel are rubber-stamping a co-operation deal for defending national infrastructures such as banks, transport and power plants from cyber-attack. It's a deal that makes every one of us safer.

The NHS relies on Israel. One in six of its drugs come from the Jewish state, including Azilect, the most advanced treatment available for Parkinson's Disease. If there is a cure for cancer, you can be sure an Israeli scientist will bloody well find it.

The country's irrigation and farming methods feed parched developing populations and show them how to reuse 80% of its wastewater.

No oil, just toil. That's Israel.

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All this is being accomplished in the middle of the world's crappiest neighbourhood, where virtually every other country from Gibraltar to the Khyber Pass is a blotch on humanity that richly deserves a fair few boycotts, divestments or sanctions of their own.

Tel Aviv is a brief drive away from Hezbollah to the north, Hamas to the west and Isis and al-Qaeda to the east – where millions suffer under tyrannical systems that detest minorities, women who drive and people on Twitter. And Jews. My, how they hate Jews.

A casual onlooker would hold Israel in esteem, not contempt. But for Britain's [often publicly funded] boycott movement, and sadly all too many on the left, no good deed goes unpunished when it comes to just one county. Facts come second to fanaticism for this batty bunch of book-burners.

As Brendan O'Neill, the editor of Spiked Online, powerfully puts it: "Israel-bashing brings together both intolerant, austere Islamist outfits with well-to-do white people from Islington who don't believe in God. It makes partners of youthful politicos who fancy themselves as open-minded and diehard conspiracy theorists who believe Jews run the world."

Would you want to be a member of that club?

Local authorities have no business turning their unexamined assumptions into divisive political statements. Clackmannanshire Council doesn't need a foreign policy. That's why these contentious new regulations are called for.

It might be like taking a javelin to lance a boil, but this abscess won't clear up on its own without bursting.


Richard Ferrer has been the editor of the Jewish News since 2009.