JC on the Israel’s anti-boycott law: “a betrayal of the very essence of Israel”

This week’s leader column in the Jewish Chronicle.

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.

This week’s leader column in the Jewish Chronicle.


See also this piece in the JC, including:

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.”

See the report on Jonathan Freedland’s debate with Omar Barghouti, including:

… 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.”

20 Responses to “JC on the Israel’s anti-boycott law: “a betrayal of the very essence of Israel””

  1. Raditsky Says:

    Now, if you are really serious about silencing an opposition………

  2. Absolutely Observer Says:

    7.”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.” (4,2;6)

    Wake up; coffee

  3. NIMN Says:

    Yes, Jonathan, adopt a policy that makes you indistinguishable from those you oppose.
    BDS wants to erode freedoms; and your response os for Israel to do the same.

    Quite right, Jonathan, let your opponents leads you willingly into their own gutter.
    Sharp, real sharp.

    • Paul M Says:

      “Indistinguishable from those you oppose”? The people behind the BDS campaign are out to separate Israel from the rest of the world’s nations, literally silence the voices of it’s supporters by denying them access to audiences or shouting them down, and ultimately to destroy the nation (see Freedland, link above). In contrast, the law’s supporters are merely proposing to set attempts at organized economic and cultural attack outside the limits of free speech.

      The anti-boycott law may be bad in itself; it may be a propaganda win for the other side — or maybe not. That’s a debate we should have, but people who claim to value free speech and the beneficial effect of meeting argument with counter-argument should take the trouble to stay away from the hyperbolic extremes.

      • NIMN Says:

        “Indistinguishable from those you oppose”?”

        “It means that there is no difference between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ariel College of Samaria,”

        Get it yet?

        • Paul M Says:


          My first reply seems to have gone down the memory hole. If it pops back up, then sorry for the duplication.

          Paul Frosh is wrong; so are you. There are many, many differences between Ariel College and HU, from the trivial to the deep, to the one you want to focus on — location. The differences will remain despite the law and you can still talk about them. The law simply sets a limit to what you can do about the difference. That it’s a good or a bad thing is worth debating. That it’s The End Af Life As We Know It is not.

          Before you again patronise me or anyone else with “Get it yet?”, perhaps you should take time to be sure that you do.

        • NIMN Says:

          And, as you know Paul M, attacks on democracy and individual rights rarely happen in one foul swoop, but incrementally (see the UK and criminal justice provisions, see its rules of “terrorism”, detention for example)
          At each step, it is aided by good people like yourself who, in taking each step individually, argue that, in this instance, the law(s) is/are reasonable, and then the next one and the next one and the next one.
          The result is that before you know it you are in a completely different place.
          At what point does one draw the line? At what point do you draw the line?

          Get it, yet?

        • Paul M Says:

          Ah, so I’m fascism’s handmaiden now. There’s lots to be said about that and plenty of arguments to make, but that second, gratuitous “Get it yet?” does it for me. You’re having far too much fun manning your imaginary ramparts; returning to the rational world and actually relating to the arguments would spoil it for you. You’ll do fine without further input from me. Enjoy yourself.

  4. Paul Frosh Says:

    I’m going to give you my gut reaction: not particularly thought through, probably incoherent and possibly irrational, but nevertheless sincere: the anti-boycott law makes me sick. It makes me even more determined to boycott settlements. It means that there is no difference between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ariel College of Samaria, and that I am therefore only left with one of two choices: advocate a boycott of Israeli academia in its entirety (i.e. advocate a boycott of the country I live in and love) – since for the purposes of the new law this now includes the West Bank (talk about de facto annexation!) – or reject boycotts of both Israel and the settlements. I want to be able to make a crucial distinction: to say that Israel is legitimate but the occupation is not, and to take political action on that basis. This law deprives me of that right.
    Paul Frosh
    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    • David Hirsh Says:

      You could be sued now for leaving this comment, Paul, because this comment could easily be read as an incitement to people to boycott the settlements?

      What can be done to secure a majority in the Knesset which understands the distinction?

      • Paul Frosh Says:

        You know what David, a big part of me has just had enough and thinks ‘bring it on’.
        What can be done to secure a sane knesset majority? The usual – plugging away in the parties, press, education etc. It’ll be a long, depressing haul though – the Zionist left is practically defunct – and we really don’t have much time to play with.

      • Gideon Swort Says:

        Nope DH.
        He is not calling for a boycott, he’s making a personal choice, all legitimate under this law. He can even call for a boycott on Tnuva Cottage and he will not be breaking the law.

        The finer distinction of this law will be dissected in Israel’s high court, in an attempt to make it “constitutional”.

        However, moral pissants like Omar Bargutti, will hopefully lose the government subsidy for his degree, and will not receive government funding for research, which I’m fine with. Same goes for the likes of Neve Gordon – I do not want my tax money to subsidize his job or research.

        • Paul Frosh Says:

          Tell you what Gideon, you take my tax money out of the settlements and you can have yours back from the likes of Neve Gordon.

        • Gideon Swort Says:

          Tell you what Paul, if you can get your tax money back out of the settlements, let me know and I’ll queue up behind you to get mine.

  5. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    So, Jonathan Freedland has finally realised what we’ve known for these past 7 years or so: the BDS crew just want to see Israel gone. You’d think that a self-acknowledged Jewish journalist who works for The Guardian, and who said at an Engage meeting some 3 or 4 years ago that he saw his job as “explaining The Guardian to [British] Jews and [British] Jews to The Guardian” might have realised by now.

    Or perhaps he never reads CiF columns he doesn’r write and _never_ reads the comments below them.

    _That_ would explain a lot.

  6. vildechaye Says:

    RE: Answer
    Wake up; coffee

    Alternative answer:
    Penny. Drop. (took him long enough…)

  7. Toby Esterhase Says:

    Are you people unable to recognise a smart rhetorical position when you see one?

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Toby, I hope that’s not directed at me. I was trying to think of a smart follow-up to your smart rhetorical position, and failed miserably: it’s difficult to “think smart” at that time of night, indeed, this site sticks to GMT, so it was probably an hour later. So, I went for a clever memory trick instead: what Freedland said at that meeting.

      Didn’t work, huh?

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