British boycotters of Israeli goods to face “severe penalties” by gov’t

AFP/ London/

British town halls and publicly funded universities face “severe penalties” if they institute boycotts of “unethical” companies or Israeli goods under controversial new rules to be outlined by the government this week.

“Locally imposed boycotts can roll back integration as well as hinder Britain’s export trade and harm international relationship,” the Cabinet Office said in a statement on Monday.

“Town hall boycotts undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarizing debate, weakening integration and fueling anti-Semitism,” it added.

The proposed rules are due to be announced later this week by Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock during a visit to Israel, the government statement said, without saying what penalties may be imposed.

“We need to challenge and prevent these divisive town hall boycotts,” Hancock was expected to say.

The measure would apply to the public sector as a whole, including the National Health Service.

The only exception to the boycott ban, which also covers action against companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuel and tobacco, would be official sanctions agreed by the central government.

The move follows a series of local boycotts in recent years that have angered Israeli authorities.

In 2014, Leicester City Council instituted a boycott on goods made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A Scottish government notice to local councils in Scotland also “strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements.”

The European Union last year backed the labelling of products from Israeli settlements, in a move that Israel condemned as discriminatory and warned could harm the peace process with the Palestinians.

The Cabinet Office said it continued to support labelling “to ensure that individual consumers are able to make informed choices before they buy.”

But an opposition Labor Party spokesman said the boycott ban was “an attack on local democracy.”

“This government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa,” he said.

Amnesty International’s UK economic relations program director Peter Frankental also condemned the plan.

“Where’s the incentive for companies to ensure there are no human rights violations such as slavery in their supply chains when public bodies cannot hold them to account,” he told the Independent newspaper.

Beijing places missile launchers on disputed South China Sea island

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Tensions in the region could rise after satellite images appear to show two batteries of eight missile launchers and a radar system on Woody Island

China has placed surface-to-air missile equipment on one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, newly published satellite images appear to show.

Related: South China Sea dispute: Beijing places missile launchers on island – Live

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Why Narendra Modi’s government is at war with students | Opinion | DW.COM | 16.02.2016 (Was only a matter of time before Hindu Nationalists showed their fascist core!)

Both the government and its political supporters are upping the ante with overblown and anti-leftist nationalism. Virtually every institution and individual is being marked as either traitorous or nationalist. Since JNU is considered a leftist bastion, Hindu nationalists are demanding on Twitter that the university be shut down, and the demand to arrest “traitors” is trending on Twitter. One section of the political divide has assumed the monopoly over the power to issue certificates of patriotism. Shivam Vij writes for DW from India It has long been a grouse of Hindu nationalists that intellectual spaces in India, such as academia and English-language media, are dominated by leftist elements. Since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, the government has tried to install right-wing heads in many such institutions, the key criterion being political affiliation and not talent. This in itself caused protests. But now the nationalists seem to have decided to go a step further, turning students into political prisoners and taking to vigilantism and violence with impunity, as the police often stand by and do nothing. On Monday, journalists, academics and activists were attacked by lawyers close to the ruling party. “We’ll break your phones and your bones,” they said. Journalists were punched, slapped and abused, called terrorists and asked to leave.

Source: Why Narendra Modi’s government is at war with students | Opinion | DW.COM | 16.02.2016

Israeli security forces briefly detained Washington Post bureau chief in Jerusalem

A passerby in Jerusalem accused the journalist of inciting violence, and police took him in to custody even though he showed them is press credentials. The US-based daily called the incident “extremely troubling.”

Source: Israeli security forces briefly detained Washington Post bureau chief in Jerusalem