Israel’s new anti-boycott bill, which brings stiff penalties for an call to boycott Israel or the West Bank settlements economically, culturally or academically, has been getting a lot of negative attention. And deservedly so. Much as Israel gets an unfair shake in the international community, punishing political activities and speech is not what democracies do.
This editorial from The Forward, which has some of its articles published Sundays in Haaretz and therefore could be punished any message perceived to call for a boycott, is the most poignant criticism I’ve read:
So, for example, if we say something like:
We can understand why reasonable people could advocate a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank because those settlements are deemed illegal under international law and because a boycott is a peaceful way of expressing a moral concern— well, if we say something like that, we could be sued and held liable in civil court. And that court could award financial recompense to the plaintiff not according to actual damage done to his income if, for instance, we suggested that people refrain from buying his oranges or his facial cream, but according to what he thinks he might lose in the future.
Unpack this for a moment. We didn’t boycott, we just expressed sympathy in a way that could be seen as advocacy without taking the leap from speech to action. We didn’t target a product manufactured in Tel Aviv or Hadera or within the undisputed borders of Israel, or in any way seek to delegitimize the state. We surely didn’t advocate violence or express a destructive opinion about Israel or its government and leaders.
We simply said that promoting a boycott of goods from the occupied West Bank could be a legitimate form of political protest by those who love Israel and therefore wish to see her survive as a democratic Jewish state with borders that allow for a viable Palestinian state next door.
But it could get us in trouble.
Read the rest here.