'An ongoing effort to liquidate democracy'

The boycott law subverts Israeli democracy
Knesset members who vote for the anti-Boycott Law must understand they are supporting the gagging of protest in an effort to liquidate democracy.
Haaretz Editorial

Today, the Knesset was slated to approve the final reading of the Boycott Prohibition Law, which imposes severe punishments on anyone who calls, directly or indirectly, for boycotting Israel. Inter alia, the law says any person or organization that calls for boycotting Israel, including by calling for a boycott of the settlements, would be deemed guilty of a civil offense.

Organizations that call for boycotts would not be entitled to receive tax-deductible donations or obtain funding from the state.
This contemptible law blatantly violates Israel’s Basic Laws. It is couched in vague language: It defines “a boycott of the State of Israel” very broadly, while the definition of causing a boycott is fluid. Under the law, it would suffice for a call to boycott Israel to have “a reasonable possibility” of leading to an actual boycott for the lawbreaker (under the Torts Ordinance, New Version ) to be defined as having committed a civil offense. The lawbreaker would then be deprived of significant economic benefits and would also have to pay high compensation to those purportedly harmed by the boycott.

This vagueness is intentional, designed to conceal the goal of spreading a wide protective net over the settlements, whose products, activities and in fact very existence – which is controversial to begin with – are the main reason for the boycott initiatives, both domestic and foreign. The legislators are thereby trying to silence one of the most legitimate forms of democratic protest, and to restrict the freedom of expression and association of those who oppose the occupation and the settlers’ violence and want to protest against the government’s flawed order of priorities.

The law’s sponsors are also creating a mendacious equivalence between the State of Israel and Israeli society as a whole, on one hand, and the settlements on the other. They are thereby granting the settlers sweeping legitimization.

This is a politically opportunistic and anti-democratic act, the latest in a series of outrageously discriminatory and exclusionary laws enacted over the past year, and it accelerates the process of transforming Israel’s legal code into a disturbingly dictatorial document. It casts the threatening shadow of criminal offense over every boycott, petition or even newspaper op-ed. Very soon, all political debate will be silenced.

Knesset members who vote for this law must understand that they are supporting the gagging of protest as part of an ongoing effort to liquidate democracy. Such moves may be painted as protecting Israel, but in reality, they exacerbate its international isolation.


Leftist groups unite to stop Knesset boycott bill
Peace Now sends MKs black flags, warns bill would turn Knesset into a “thought police,” limit freedom of expression.
By Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post

A coalition of leftist groups will demonstrate outside the Justice Ministry on Sunday in an effort to prevent the passage of the “Boycott Bill,” which is expected to be voted into law by the Knesset the next day.

The legislation, sponsored by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), allows citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions, or “regions under Israeli control.”

It would prevent the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.

Elkin and Kadima MKs initiated the bill following reports that companies had accepted contracts to build the new Palestinian city of Rawabi, north of Ramallah, that were contingent on accepting boycotts of Israel.

Efforts by Israeli actors to boycott the Ariel Center for the Performing Arts that opened last November in Samaria also inspired the legislation.

Peace Now sent all 120 MKs black flags to warm them of the ramifications of the bill, which the organization warns will turn the Knesset into a “thought police” and severely limit freedom of expression.

“At a time when the leaders of the country are encouraging the public to boycott high-priced dairy products, the Knesset wants to forbid by law the use of a legitimate tool for citizens to express their political opinion,” Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer wrote the lawmakers. “Even those who support the settlements should maintain the public discourse over their future and prevent forcing their opinions on others via antidemocratic legislation in the Knesset.”

A spokesman for the Coalition of Women for Peace, which is organizing Sunday’s rally, said the legislation could still be defeated, because there are MKs in the coalition who oppose it.

Elkin rejected charges that the bill would harm freedom of expression.

“I am for freedom of expression, but individualfreedoms don’t give anyone the right to harm someone else,” Elkin said. “Boycotts harm people. I fight for the right of people to say what they think, even if they are criticizing our policies in Judea and Samaria, but it’s different if they say to harm someone because they live in Judea and Samaria.”

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