Breaking: Knesset outlaws political boycott

The Knesset has just passed into law the anti-boycott initiative bill of MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), by a majority of 47 to 38. A lot of members, including Shas, top Likud members and all of Atzmaut (Ehud Barak’s faction) were absent. Netanyahu was absent from the vote. We hope to have the names of the MKs for you and for posterity soon.

As Roi Maor wrote here earlier,

….the law seeks to penalize those who call for boycotting Israel, the settlements, or anyone related to the occupation. If a person, for example, calls for a boycott of academic institutions that participate in the occupation, he could be sued in civil court, and ordered to pay compensation. If a company agrees not to purchase products manufactured in the settlements, it could be barred from government contracts. If an NGO joins the global BDS call, it could be stripped of its non-profit status, and compelled to pay taxes as if it was a commercial firm.

The legal advisor of the Knesset already voiced grave warnings regarding the constitutionality of law, and Adalah and Association for Civil Rights Israel  already announced they will petition the Supreme Court to strike down the law. Their petitions are expected to be filed in the coming days. Attorney General of Israel, Yehuda Weinstein, has let the Israeli government know he is willing to defend the law at the High Court.

The vote was preceded by a heated debate, with opposition members accusing the coalition of an attack on Israeli democracy. “I know of nothing that causes more de-legitimization for Israel abroad than these acts of legislation,” said MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz. MK Nino Abessadze (Kadima) accused the government of taking Israel back to the Stalinist Bolshevism of the 1930’s. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) defended the law in the name of Netanyahu’s government, claiming that boycott in itself is an undemocratic act:

“It’s a principle of democracy that you don’t shun a public you disagree with by harming their livelihood. A boycott on a certain sector is not the proper manifestation of freedom of expression. It is an aggressive move meant to force a sector that thinks a different way to capitulate. Boycotts are aggressive and wrong.”

Yet it is important to note that Israel didn’t ban all boycotts tonight – just those directed against the country’s 44 years of occupation.

I would add two observations: One, this law will obviously do more to “de-legitimize” Israel as a “normal” western-style democracy than any action by the BDS movement could ever dream to. Two: This is the first of an entire barrage of anti-democratic bills being pushed for legislation that actually went through. Tonight may be the night when the coalition, up to and including its wackiest members, will finally realize it is in power, it is in control – and the parliamentary left can do very little to stop them. Unless the Supreme Court strikes it down – and the Court has been very cautious in recent years, knowing full well it’s also being targeted for crippling and/or decommission – we should brace ourselves for more laws like that, coming fast and furious over the next few months.

Read more on the boycott law:

What is the anti-boycott law? Who does it affect?

Roger Waters speaks against boycott bill, endorses BDS

Boycott bill: A way to persecute the Israeli left

Boycott: No longer taboo in progressive pro-Israel circles

( / 11.07.2011)

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