Israel’s approval of anti-boycott bill drawing protests, legal challenges

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 7-12-11

The Israeli parliament’s adoption of a controversial anti-boycott bill has been greeted with a firestorm of protest from liberal Israeli NGOs and civil rights groups.

On Tuesday, a day after the Knesset voted 47-38 to enact the measure following six hours of contentious debate, the liberal Gush Shalom movement appealed to the nation’s Supreme Court to overturn the law. Other Israeli nongovernmental organizations are vowing legal challenges, too.

“The Boycott Law will lead to unprecedented harm to freedom of expression in Israel and will bring justified criticism against Israel from abroad,” Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said in a statement issued following the vote. “We will all have to pay the price for this atrocious law.”

The bill, which was initiated by Likud lawmaker and ruling coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, allows for civil lawsuits against individuals and groups calling for boycotts targeting Israel or areas under its control. Those damaged by boycotts would be able to claim monetary damages from boycott advocates. The law also would force the government to stop doing business with companies that comply with such boycotts.

Elkin’s proposal came months after some prominent Israeli artists had called for a boycott of a new cultural center in the West Bank city of Ariel, and some academics had urged a boycott of academic institutions in the West Bank. In addition, an Israeli construction company was hired to help build a new Palestinian city in the West Bank after it agreed not to use products from the settlements.

“It’s a principle of democracy that you don’t shun a public you disagree with by harming their livelihood,” said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of the Likud Party during the debate over the new law. “A boycott on a certain sector is not the proper manifestation of freedom of expression. It is an aggressive move meant to force a sector that thinks a different way to capitulate. Boycotts are aggressive and wrong.”…READ MORE

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