This newspaper, along with almost the entirety of Anglo-Jewry, does everything within its power to oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
It is a moral disgrace, and its supporters deserve every ounce of the opprobrium they receive from all decent people. But the response of the Knesset this week, in effectively silencing the proponents of BDS, is not merely misguided and an own goal; it is a betrayal of the very essence of Israel.
When boycotters berate Israel, we have always been able to point out the hypocrisy of their focus on the one truly free country in the Middle East. That argument will no longer hold water if the new law is allowed to remain on the statute books. It is the very negation of democracy, and of what Israel stands for – freedom to express views which are defeated in argument. As for the behaviour of Benjamin Netanyahu, in simply absenting himself from the vote: so much for leadership. If he thinks the law is wrong, he should have led by example and voted against. This law must be overturned, and soon.
But anti-boycott campaigners in the UK rounded on the new law. Ronnie Fraser of Academic Friends of Israel said it “will make it more difficult to argue that Israel is an open democratic society with few restrictions on debate. Once again the Israeli government has failed to understand the problems for pro-Israeli activists in the diaspora.”
David Hirsh, editor of the website Engage, which counters antisemitism and anti-Zionism in the academic world, said: “The boycott campaign treats Israel as though it was no more legitimate than the settlements in the occupied territories. The new law shares this assumption… Instead of driving a wedge between the peace camp and the boycotters, the new law pushes the peace camp into the arms of the boycotters.”
… both Ms Gould and Mr Freedland were repeatedly shouted down by pro-Palestinian activists.
A clearly shaken Mr Freedland told the audience: “Tonight has been hugely revealing. I thought my disagreement with the boycott movement was because I want to see the end of occupation and you want to see the end of occupation and it was an argument about tactics.
“What has come through loud and clear is your motivation is not actually just the end of occupation but it’s with Israel itself – you have a fundamental problem with it.”