Monday, July 11, 2011

"Boycott Law" just passed by Israeli Knesset

The Knesset just passed (on its second and third readings) the "Boycott Law," which penalizes people and organizations that call for a boycott against Israel or against the settlements. Tomorrow a petition will be submitted to the Supreme Court against the law by the organizations Coalition of Women for Peace, Physicians for Human Rights, the Public Committee Against Torture, and Adalah. This is after the opinion of the Legal Adviser to the Knesset, who ruled today that the law suffered from a "real constitutional defect" and is a "violation of core political speech in Israel."

To protest against the law, Peace Now has just started a Facebook page calling for boycotting products from the settlements. The head of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, said tonight that "Someone who buys products from the territories himself funds building in the settlements and the outposts, damages Israeli exports, and deepens the occupation. As Israelis we will not surrender the right to protest and the freedom to say this."

As should be clear to anyone who reads my blog, I am opposed to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign, because I believe that it is fundamentally antisemitic and will never lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. On the other hand, I myself have grave doubts about buying products made in the settlements. As the Peace Now leader said, doing so directly supports the settlements financially and enables them to continue to exist.

I oppose the occupation and think that Israel should withdraw from most of the West Bank to enable the establishment of a Palestinian state. The continued building of settlements and the establishment of settlement outposts has continually diminished the amount of land that could be used for the Palestinian state. In addition, many settlers engage in illegal and violent acts against their Palestinian neighbors, up to and including setting fire to mosques in retaliation for Israeli government actions (usually quite mild) against the settlements (for example, tearing down an outpost consisting of a few caravans). I don't want to reward people for these actions.

The Peace Now Facebook page says (my translation): "Prosecute me, I boycott products of the settlements. This is an historic day in which the Israeli Knesset transformed itself from a representative of the people to the national thought police. It appears that the extreme right prefers to end the many years long debate about the settlements by means of an anti-democratic law. In the wake of the law, we will call (for the first time), tomorrow morning, together with thousands of supporters, to boycott the products of the settlements, and we will explain to the public that one who buys products from the settlements damages the state of Israel."

The point of this law is not to attack the BDS movement outside Israel, which will not be injured by it. It is to attack the Israeli left and its activism against the settlements. There are a few extreme Israeli leftists who support the BDS movement, but groups like Peace Now are certainly not among them. This law is part and parcel of the campaign by the Israeli extreme right to demonize and delegitimize the Israeli left, including such human rights organizations as B'Tselem. Israelis and Jews in the other countries may not like what Peace Now, B'Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture, and other organizations say in criticism of Israeli governmental actions, but to deny them the right to free speech, on penalty of extensive fines, is a blow to Israeli democracy.


  1. Oy. What a balagan.

    I'm working on my own post about this right now; I'm fascinated by how rarely (in my experience) the American Jewish discourse about BDS takes into account the distinction between BDS which targets all of Israel writ large, and BDS which targets enterprises in the settlements. Thanks for the Peace Now FB link.

  2. I think that the confusion arises because the BDS movement, as I perceive it (mostly the academic boycott) does not make a distinction between sovereign Israel and the settlements. So, for example, when the UCU (the British academic union) was first considering the academic boycott, they wanted to cut ties with Haifa University as well as with the college at Ariel (which is in the occupied territories). The other day I read the complete PACBI call for the academic boycott (a depressing experience - I don't recommend it!) and it is clearly aimed at all of Israeli academia, not just at Ariel. If the BDS movement made a more careful distinction, I would probably be less upset about it myself.