Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Boycott Bill

The so-called "Boycott Bill" has been a major bone of contention between the right and the left in Israeli politics for some time. The right alleges that left-wing Israeli organizations are accepting donations from abroad to support the boycott of Israeli goods, institutions and academics, and that this is tantamount to treason. The left alleges that right-wing organizations also take donations from abroad that support the settlement movement, and that this undermines the chances of peace with the Palestinians. After much wrangling, the Boycott Bill was passed on Tuesday, but after it was greatly modified. Instead of criminalizing the use of foreign funds to influence Israeli policies, the Bill only opens such activities to civil suits. In other words, if an individual or an organization feels that it has been harmed by the use of foreign funds by an Israeli organization that is trying to influence Israeli policies, then they can sue in civil court. Since the Bill was supported by the Israel Beitanu faction, one of the first possible suits would be by an IB MK against Ahmed Tibi, an Arab MK who has been openly supporting the boycott movement from within Israel. Another possible suit would be by companies that are losing financially due to the boycott of their products against those supporting the boycott.

The left is now starting a campaign against the Bill on grounds of its constitutionality, in that it will be used to prevent the free expression of opinion in relation to the boycott. They claim that the Bill will be used to shut down critical voices on the left against Netanyahu's policies. THey have brought a case agaisnt the Bill in the Supreme Court of Israel. There is serious discussion amongst lawyers as to the rightness of using legal means to stop foreign funds influencing Israeli policies. The argument of the supporters of the Bill is that these funds are used by enemies of Israel to influence Israeli policies and public opinion against valid Israeli activities, such as settlement on the West Bank and production there. It is pointed out that not only is Israeli settlement legal under international law (whatever the political considerations), but that it also gives work to thousands of Arabs who otherwise would have none. Also, to support the BDS movement from within Israel is aiding and abetting those who have the intention of destroying the Jewish State.

Whatever one's political opinion, the Bill will now be tested in court, and those who criticize Israel must acknowledge that Israel is a democratic country where the rule of law is paramount.


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