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Israeli human rights groups challenging new boycott law

JTA

July 12, 2011 | 10:44 am

Supreme Court of Israel

Supreme Court of Israel

Israeli human rights groups began challenging the boycott bill approved by Israel’s Knesset.

The Gush Shalom movement appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, a day after the Knesset adopted a new law that would sanction individuals or organizations calling for a boycott of Israel or its settlements. The bill was passed by a vote of 45 to 38 after six hours of contentious debate.

Gush Shalom in its appeal called the law offensive to the basic principles of democracy, Ynet reported.

Peace Now also is fighting the legislation, launching a Facebook group immediately following the vote called “Prosecute me, I boycott the settlements!”

“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.”

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon told the plenum Monday that the bill is “borderline illegal” since it could violate freedom of political expression.

The bill, initiated by Likud lawmaker and ruling coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, also would allow for civil lawsuits against individuals and groups calling for anti-Israel boycotts, and would force the government to stop doing business with companies that comply with those boycotts.

The proposed law came after Israeli artists called for a boycott of a new cultural center in the West Bank city of Ariel and academics called for a boycott of academic institutions in the West Bank. An Israeli construction company was hired to build a new Palestinian city in the West Bank after it agreed not to use products from the settlements.

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