Monday, July 11, 2011

The Anti-Boycott Law

If you call for the economic, cultural and/or academic boycott of Israel and the settlements, you may soon be civilly liable. A controversial bill, scheduled for a final approval vote today, would grant pretty much anyone the right to sue boycott advocates and demand compensation without the need to prove direct damages. It isn't clear whether the vote will go forward or be delayed by one week in order to avoid embarrassment when the Quartet convenes today to adopt President Obama's parameters for peace.

I've never supported any kind of BDS, not against the settlements and certainly not against Israel proper. I find the concept of a boycott of Israel vile, one sided and counterproductive. However, I can understand Israelis and foreigners who boycott products of the settlements, even if I don't engage in it myself.

Having said that, I think this bill is just plain wrong and undemocratic. Even if it only addressed the issue of boycotts against Israel, rather than the settlements, I still would have opposed it. Choosing what to buy is every person's right. Calling for boycotts should be protected speech, even when it is absolutely disgusting. Nobody should be sued for it, especially not when no direct damage has to be proven, and theoretically, hundreds of different people and companies can sue the same person for millions each.

The only part of this bill that makes sense is the part about not allowing people and organizations who support a boycott against Israel to participate in government bids (though I would allow those who only support a boycott of the settlements, not of Israel, to participate). After all, by supporting a boycott of Israel, you lost your right to do business with it. You might think it doesn't make sense that someone who is pro-BDS would even want to get an Israeli government contract. That would be true with regard to foreigners, but there are Israelis who support boycott against themselves, but still want to take Israel's money for business ventures or non-profit projects.

I hope this bill does not pass the Knesset. I hope enough MKs will come to their senses. If they don't, I hope the Supreme Court will strike it down.

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