Tens of thousands have asked the British government to stop all trade with Israel as punishment for its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In a petition to the government, about 68,000 signatories strongly criticised Israel for “continuing to steal lands from Palestinians in their own land.”
The move comes days before the UK House of Commons holds a rare debate on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“They (the Israelis) evict Palestinian families from their homes so that they have to live in refugee camps on ever-decreasing land," the petition said, adding the Israelis have set up companies on stolen land.
Pro-Palestine activists in the UK criticise some big superstores and UK-based companies that trade with Israeli businesses in illegal israeli settlements.
“The British government should set up a trade embargo on Israel until they stop their apartheid regime,” the petition says.
However, the UK government has said it is firmly opposed to calls for a boycott of Israel. While confirming its rejection of Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, the government believes a boycott is no answer.
“We do not agree with many of Israel’s actions with respect to the occupied Palestinian territories and do not hesitate to express strong views whenever we feel it necessary. At the same time, we enjoy a close and productive relationship with Israel that enables us to express our views at senior levels very frankly,” said a government spokesperson.
“It is our assessment that imposing sanctions on Israel would lessen this influence, not increase it, and would not promote the urgent progress towards a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that we want to see,” the spokesperson added.
One of the key features of UK policies towards Israeli settlements is to “advise British businesses to bear in mind the British government's view on the illegality of settlements under international law when considering their investments and activities in the region.”
The government says it is ultimately the decision of an individual or company whether to do business in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. British authorities would neither encourage nor offer support for such activities, it confirms.
According to UK parliamentary rules, if the petition is signed by more than 100,000 people it can be considered for debate in the House of Commons.
The petition, created by pro-Palestine activists in the UK, can be signed up until 17 March 2015.
A House of Commons debate on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will take place 1 December.