For some time I have been waiting for the Anti-boycott Bill to pass on its second and third parliamentary readings so I could be one of the first to violate this ridiculous infringement of free speech as an act of civil disobedience.
Yet having read the current version of the bill, I find that violating it won’t be easy. In fact, I can’t do it.
You see, I thought that the bill outlawed, for example, calling for boycotts against Israeli companies. But that can’t be right because a successful boycott against cottage cheese recently caused companies to lower the price. So according to the law, there is nothing wrong about supporting a boycott of an Israeli company, as long as you do it for the legitimate reasons.
But what are the illegitimate reasons?
Say I don’t want people to buy B & B pretzels because I happen to be connected with their competitor, Osem. So I say, “Don’t buy B & B pretzels.” And B & B pretzels happen to be manufactured on the West Bank. Does that make me culpable, i.e., liable to some suit, according to the new law?
Not really. The Anti-boycott Bill says,
In this bill, “a boycott against the State of Israel” [means] deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another party only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.
At first glance, that seems to be saying that I can’t call for a boycott of products originating from the West Bank, an area under the State of Israel’s control. So I can’t call for a boycott of B & B Pretzels.
But the operative clause is “only because of [the company’s] ties with [the West Bank]. ” And, frankly, I don’t think B & B should be boycotted only because it is located on the West Bank. For if it were a Palestinian company, or were Israel licensing the rights to operate the company from the Palestinians, I wouldn’t be boycotting it. It’s not the geography that concerns me, it is the fact that the company is built illegally on Palestinian land and hence should be boycotted. Had the law said, “only because of its ties with the State of Israel’s policy of confiscating lands” that may capture better my motivation.
And the same thing within Israel, proper. Say I support the boycott of Sabra Humus and publicly endorse it on this blog. If I do it as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian students at Princeton, then I can’t be said to boycott it solely because it is made in Israel.
But what if I call for a boycott of all Israeli products, or endorse the global BDS movement. Surely, the intent of the law is to prevent such blanket endorsements? But the law doesn’t say it; it simply says you can’t call for a boycott of a product simply because it is made in Israel. And even the BDS movement doesn’t cite “being made in Israel” as the motivation of the boycott, but rather, the desire to hold Israel to the standard of decent nations.
And now I understand the crazy reasoning behind those who framed the law. You see, they thought that the purpose of the global BDS movement, or the targeted BDS movement, limiting it to the occupied territories, is to destroy Israel. If that is the purpose then it makes sense to say that anybody who calls for a boycott of Israeli products simply because they are made in Israel or the territories is liable to suits, punishments. But that’s not their purpose of the global BDS movement, and they don’t say that it is.
Ditto for the cultural boycott. If I call on artists not to appear in the theater in Ariel, it’s not because the theater is located in Ariel, which is in the West Bank;. It is because Ariel and the other illegal cities and settlements directly benefit from the occupation. Were Israel to change its policies and end the occupation, I would end my call for a boycott. The global BDS movement has higher requirements but they certainly fall short of calling for the end of the Israeli state.
Heck, the international sanctions against Iran don’t aim to destroy the country, but to get the government to fulfill their international obligations.
So I would like to go on to record, as I issue my call for boycotting the companies that profit from the occupation, that I do not intend to violate the new boycott law, should it pass.. I am not calling to boycott these companies “only” because they are in the West Bank or Israel proper.
I have other reasons.
And here’s a useful website http://www.whoprofits.org/ that contains of some of those companies.
1. In this bill, “a boycott against the State of Israel” – deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another factor only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.
Boycott – a civil wrong:
A. Knowingly publishing a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel will be considered a civil wrong to which the civil tort law [new version] applies, if according to the content and circumstances of the publication there is reasonable probability that the call will bring about a boycott and he who published the call was aware of this possibility.
B. In regards to clause 62 [A] of the civil tort law [new version], he who causes a binding legal agreement to be breached by calling for a boycott against the State of Israel will not be viewed as someone who operated with sufficient justification.
C. If the court will find that an wrong according to this law was deliberately carried out, it will be authorized to compel the person who did the wrongdoing to pay damages that are not dependent on the damage (in this clause – damages, for example); in calculating the sum of the damages for example, the court will take into consideration, among other things, the circumstances under which the wrong was carried out, its severity and its extent.
Regulations pertaining to limitation on participation in tenders:
3. The Finance Minister is authorized, with the agreement of the Justice Minister and the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, to set the regulations of this matter [special cases where it will be limited] and to limit the participation of he who knowingly published a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel, or who committed to take part in a boycott, in a tender that must to be carried out according to legislation.
Regulations pertaining to the suspension of benefits
A. The Finance Minister, with the approval of the Justice Minister, may decide in the case of someone who knowingly published a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel or committed to take part in a boycott [in special cases] that –
1. He will not be considered a public institution as to clause 9 (2) of the income tax ordinance;
2. He will not be eligible for receiving money from the council of sports gambling according to clause 9 of the law regulating sports gambling, 1967;
3. He will not be considered a public institution as far as receiving support according to clause 3(A) of the budget foundations law, 1985;
4. He will not be subject to the orders of the guaranteeing law on behalf of the state, 1958
5. He will not be eligible to enjoy benefits given according to the law to encourage capital investment, 1959, and according to the law to encourage research and development in industry, 1984.
B. Putting into practice the authority of the Finance Minister according to small clause (A)(2) will be carried out with the approval of the Sports Minister. Putting into practice the authority of the Finance Minister according to small clause (A)(3) will be carried out with the approval of the minister that the government had decided is responsible for the budget as is stated in paragraph (2) of the definition of who is “responsible for the budget clause” within the budget foundations law, 1985. Putting into practice the authority of the Finance Minister according to small clause (5) will be carried out with the approval of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor.
5. The Minister of Justice is appointed to implement this law.