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Palestine solidarity campaigners win right to Supreme Court appeal

THE Supreme Court in London will hear a landmark challenge to stop a major British pension fund profiting from Israel’s human rights abuses.

Palestine solidarity activists hailed it as a “historic decision” and are now preparing for a courtroom showdown later this year.

Lawyers will argue over a decision by the British government to stop a public-sector pension fund pulling its money out of Israeli companies.

The Department for Communities and Local Government issued the controversial guidance in 2016, prohibiting one of the largest public-sector pension pots from boycotting British allies like Israel.

The Local Government Pension Scheme has over five million members drawn from councils, schools and other community workers.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which is bringing the challenge, says pension holders have a right to decide what their fund invests in.

The PSC warns that the government is restricting freedom of expression by forcing pensioners to invest in Israeli companies linked to human rights abuses, contrary to their conscience.

The ban was introduced despite a public consultation in which 98 per cent of respondents opposed it, the PSC said.

The Supreme Court hearing comes after years of legal wrangling.

At first, judges ruled that the government’s ban was unlawful, but this was overturned at the Court of Appeal last May.

The campaigners’ solicitor, Jamie Potter from law firm Bindmans, warned: “If the Court of Appeal decision is allowed to stand, it permits the executive carte blanche to impose their own political perspective on the investment of citizens’ money.”

PSC chairman Hugh Lanning said: “This historic decision marks a significant moment for the Palestinian solidarity movement and for all those who believe in democracy, freedom of expression and justice.

“In 2005 Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions measures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law.

“Everyone, including pension scheme members, has a right to heed the Palestinian call and peacefully protest against Israel’s violation of human rights – it is their money being invested unethically.”

The public-sector union Unison, which has many members in the pension scheme, said: “The government guidance breaches the legal principle that pension investments must be made in the best interests of scheme members.”

Colin Meech, Unison’s national investments officer, told the Star that the pension pot holds “over £260bn in assets and members are entitled to have some say in how this is invested.”

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