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Issue #1496      6 April 2011

Israel

Anti-boycott Bill approved

In 2005 Palestinians called for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights must be having an impact. The BDS campaign must be having an impact as in February this year the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) as a Knesset committee has approved a Bill imposing fines on Israeli citizens who back or initiate boycotts against the occupation. The following is a report from Political Affairs:

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved a bill on February 15 that calls for heavy fines to be imposed on Israeli citizens who initiate or incite boycotts against Israel and the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The Knesset approved an initial reading of the bill over six months ago. The bill will now move on to a first reading in the Knesset for approval. If it becomes a law, the fines would apply to anyone boycotting Israeli individuals, companies, factories, and organizations.


There have been reports of Jaffa red grapefruit labelled as “Product of Australia”. They are not! They are imported from Israel. (Photo: Anna Pha)

The bill was submitted by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin and sponsored by 27 MKs from right-wing and fascist parties: Likud, Israel Beiteinu, Shas, Habayit Hayehudi, United Torah Judaism and the centrist Kadima in its preliminary reading.

Reactions to the bill from the Israeli Left were unanimously negative. Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Communist Party of Israel) MK Dov Khenin said it was the latest in an emerging trend of anti-democratic legislation promoted by Israel Beiteinu.

“The bill is crass, aggressive, brutal and anti-democratic,” Khenin said. “The true significance of the bill is far-reaching and seeks to enlist the political Centre to the agenda of the extreme Right. Its true intent is to determine that Israel and the occupied territories are one and the same.”

Khenin said that if the bill becomes law, it would mean that people who sit at a restaurant and ask to return a bottle of wine produced in the West Bank, because they object to Israeli settlement there, would be subject to a large fine.

Hadash MK Hanna Sweid added the bill was meant to intimidate critics of government policies and was a clear violation of the freedom of expression. After a fiery discussion, which included a procedural commotion, the bill was passed with its opponents storming out of the room, refusing to participate in the vote. Before the decision was made, MK Khenin suggested renaming the “Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill” to “Prohibition on Freedom of Expression Bill,” reported the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

On the bill

The boycott bill was first submitted on June 2010 by 25 Knesset members and endorsed by members of various factions. Its hazy wording would make a number of actions, now considered free speech, illegal. It is prohibited to initiate a boycott against the State of Israel and “the territories under Israeli control”, to encourage participation in it, or to provide assistance or information with the purpose of advancing it,” section 2 of the proposed bill states.

Sections 3 and 4 of the proposed legislation state that, “An act of a citizen or resident of Israel in violation of Section 2 constitutes a civil wrong, and it will be subject to the provisions of the Torts Ordinance,” and “The court will award compensation for the civil wrong according to this law in the following manner: a. Punitive damages of up to 30,000 NIS to an injured party subject to the proof of any damage.”

If proven they participated in a boycott, individuals who are not citizens or residents of Israel can also be punished by having their right to enter the country denied for at least 10 years, according to the proposed legislation.

Eilat Maoz, Coalition of Women for Peace Coordinator, responded to the proposed bill saying: “This is a step up in which the government isn’t satisfied with persecution of left-wing organisations, but tries to make leftist protest illegal and silence its citizens. It’s a government that’s afraid of democratic debate, because such a debate will expose the disagreement of the public with the destructive policies of the occupation and the settlements.”   

Next article – The story of two whistleblowers

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