The boycott law is anti-democratic


Sometimes the most important thing said on a blog is a comment, and many of the most salient issues or points come to light through the ensuing discussions. As such, this post is adapted from a series of comments on my last post to Jewschool.

Also, this law’s passage prompted me to make my personal views more know. I just made a pledge to boycott settlement goods — please join me and the thousands of Israelis who’ve already staken their claim to freedom of expression.

What is totally lost on anyone ignorantly caught up in hyperbole peddled by BDS advocates themselves, is that BDS is no threat to Israel or its existence. It is, by the admission of its very advocates, privately shared with me many times over, a PR tool to raise the prominence of their cause. BDS organizers know better than the public that the dependence of Israel’s economy on tourism and hi-tech greatly outnumbers any wine, produce, hummus or Dead Sea mud produced by the country’s manufacturing industries.

Parallels to South African boycotts are laughable, since the boycotts against South African manufacturing brought the country’s business sector to its knees. Israel, with all its integration into the global information economy, is in no such danger.

So in order to fight a fringe, non-existential, non-violent public relations action against Israel, the 70% of Israeli citizens who oppose the settlements should lose freedom? Really? You might as well legislate that one MUST buy products from the settlements.

The boycott law is wrong on philosophical and pragmatic levels. From the ACRI breakdown of how this law is not an equivalent to American boycott limitations, emphases mine:

1. US legislation bans only participation in boycott, the Israeli legislation bans also calls for boycott.

2. US legislation only restricts participation in a boycott initiated by a foreign government; Israeli legislation restricts all boycotts of Israel and the settlements

3. In the US, the federal government is the sole body charged with enforcing the law, and there is no opening for the intervening action of private bodies.

4. US law grants special protection to the boycott as an expression of conscience; the Israeli law not only does not protect it as an expression, but now formally says that boycott is a non-legitimate expression (only when it is a call for boycott of Israel or a territory under the control of Israel).

In America, this law would permit Shell Oil or KRB to sue me for suggesting — in print, at protests, on TV, on my blog — that we should cut down our oil dependence. It would permit the Montgomery bus company to sue Martin Luther King. It is, in essence, equivalent to Cuba and the Former Soviet Union’s “crimes against the economy” which served no purpose but to lock up dissidents. Some company.

Right now, any Israeli blogger caught — by any politician, by any one! — suggesting that one not buy settlement goods can be sued for every penny they own! The cost of defending the possibly dozens or hundreds of legal suits by any one individual could bankrupt them. While the defendant may exonerate themselves in court, freedom of expression should not be expensive.—  This is fundamentally un-democratic, to make freedom of expression the purview of the wealthy.

Also as a legal note, Israel has a trade agreement with the EU that products from the settlements should be labeled. Peace Now doesn’t have to create a list — it is the Israeli government which must do so, at least as long as it wants Europe’s business. Incidentally, part of the trade agreement is also permitting EU member states to fund civil society ventures in each other’s countries.

Lastly, this bill was never supposed to get to reach a final vote, much less pass. It passed. So we must ask, how many of the other 20+ anti-democratic initatives on the docket will the Knesset pass? Here is ACRI’s detailed list (DOC), including what the status of the bills/laws. I’ve pasted the table of contents below.

Bills that Were Passed in the Current Knesset
The Nakba Law
Acceptance to Communities Law
Revoking Citizenship for Persons Convicted of Terrorism or Espionage
Funding from Foreign State Entities
Bill Pardoning Protesters of the Gaza Disengagement
Abu Basma Bill on Regional Council Elections

Bills Being Promoted with Government Support
Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill
Infiltration Bill
Binding Migrant Caretakers
Tribunal for Foreigners
Anti-Incitement Bill
Pledge of Allegiance Bill
Bill to Protect Israel’s Values
Preference in Services for Those who served in the Military
Preference in Public Service for Those who served in the Military

Bills Not Promoted due to Current Lack of Government Support
Bill on MKs’ Pledge of Allegiance
Government-Initiated Bills Intended to Restrict the Knesset’s Opposition
Cinema Bill
Bill on Ousting MKs
Bill to Bar Political Murderers and Terrorists from Voting
Bill Banning Veils in Public
Bill on Funding for Cultural Institutions

Bills the Government Has yet to Endorse or Reject
Associations Law – Amendment
Pledge of Allegiance for Civil Servants and Council Members
Denying Entry into Israel
Bill to Prevent Slandering of the State and its Institutions
Bill on Taxation of Organizations Funded by Foreign Entities
Bill on Dissolving Companies that Refuse to Operate in Any Part of the State

Bills Aimed at Weakening the Supreme Court
Basic Law: Constitution Court
Bill to Disallow High Court from Ruling on Citizenship Law
Bill Banning High Court from Ruling on Security-Related Matters
Bill to Defer High Court Rulings on Legality of Bills

Other Initiatives
Parliamentary Committees of Inquiry