Gush Shalom challenges the Israeli law which bans settlement boycott

UPDATES

In the JerusalemPost: Kenesset legal advisor: ‘Boycott Bill’  borderline illegal.

See also ACRI, Association for Civil Rights in Israel

“Gush Shalom petitions the Supreme Court: boycott law is unconstitutional and anti-democratic, stifling criticism of policy in the Occupied Territories.”

Gush Shalom Press Release, 12 July, 2011:

Gush Shalom, which was in the 1990s the first Israeli body to lead a boycott of settlement products, presented today (Tuesday, 12.7) an appeal to the Supreme Court against the “Boycott Law”, approved last night by the Knesset plenum. The petition was filed for Gush Shalom by lawyers Gaby Lasky and Neri Ramati.

The appeal states that the new law violates basic democratic principles: “The parliamentary majority seeks, through the Boycott Law as by other pieces of legislation, to silence any criticism of government policy in general and of government policy in the Occupied Territories in particular, and to prevent an open and productive political dialogue, which constitutes the basis for a functioning democratic regime” (art. 7).

The appeal also notes that “the a-priori silencing of one side’s voice by the other side party, causes substantial harm to the Freedom of Expression and is a clear indication of the weakening of the democratic regime” (a. 32)

Further, it is argued that the Boycott Law is unconstitutional and anti-democratic, as it violates the right to Freedom of Expression and to Equality, which are fundamental rights of citizens of Israel” (art. 7) – a violation which is neither “proportionate” nor “for a worthy purpose”, the only circumstances under which such a violation might be considered acceptable.

In addition, it is stated that the new law causes severe damage to commercial companies, to the extent of infringing their Freedom of Profession, since it would blur the difference between products made inside Israel’s sovereign territory and those made at settlements in the Occupied Territories: “Israeli companies seeking to break into overseas markets and increase the circulation of their goods might be required [in some countries] to state that they do not carry out production in the Territories nor purchase goods produced there. However, Article 4 of the Boycott Law makes such companies liable to lose significant economic benefits from the state [of Israel]” (a. 59).

The appeal asserts boycott is a legitimate tool for democratic discourse, which must not be infringed. Various examples and precedents are cited, ranging from the ultra-Orthodox boycott of restaurants that serve non-kosher food, the recent boycott of overpriced cottage cheese the boycott of tourism to Turkey launched by Israeli trade unions. Along with such Israeli examples are mentioned historical cases of boycotts that led to political change and to change in awareness, such as the boycott launched by Mahatma Gandhi against British products in India, the boycotts of the Afro-American community against segregation in the 1960’s, and more. Therefore, the new law is held to be violating the principle of Equality because it targets the right of opponents of the occupation to engage in an ideological boycott – while other kinds of boycotts on an ideological basis going on now in Israel will be allowed to continue uninterrupted, such as a boycott on artists who did not serve in the IDF, on gay singers and on enterprises which do not observe the Sabbath.

Former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom activist, said: “The Boycott Law is a black stain on the statutes of the State of Israel. It is my sincere hope that the court will overturn it, and save what is left of Israeli democracy.”

2 Responses to “Gush Shalom challenges the Israeli law which bans settlement boycott”

  1. Toby Esterhase Says:

    I hate the picture of the extremely articulate-looking young man pretending that he’s been gagged.
    I also hate the conflation of boycott with criticism.
    But the Knesset is doing what the anti-Zionists do – which is to make no distinction between Israel and the Occupied Territories. Dumb.

  2. Stephen Duke Says:

    I’m not sure this has anything to do with freedom of speech or expression. I live in Israel so I have a stake in this. The problem with this law is the evidentiary threshold being too low.

    My thinking is as follows (perhaps there’s something that I’ve missed):

    1) A boycott is illegitimate in the case of Israel (I think most of the readers here are agreed on this point).

    2) Arguments in favour of a boycott are specious and rely on exaggerated (i.e. false) accusations.

    3) If person A uses falsehoods to incite others to boycott company B (amongst others) then why should those who suffer financial loss on the account of falsehoods not be entitled to sue for damages? By way of analogy, if I falsely claimed that George plagiarised his work and he loses out financially then he is within his rights to seek recompense. I see no difference between this and a boycott,

    4) The issue here is not one of democracy but rather the evidentiary threshold is way too low. How can one show personal losses arose simply because person A said “boycott Israel”? As I understand things merely advocating a boycott will leave one liable to civil proceedings without the claimant having to show evidence of resultant financial losses.

    3) Why should the government use the services of companies who are complicit in a boycott? This aspect of the legislation is the least controversial.


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