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