Thursday, July 14, 2011
Soiled Nappies in the Israeli Left over the Anti-Boycott Law
enormously popular is the fact that Bibi Netanyahu is now parading
about and bragging about having been the law's sponsor. Netanyahu
does not take credit for ANYTHING unless he thinks it has populist
The Israeli anti-democratic Left of course is in hysterics, screaming
that the law is "fascism." Anything that makes the Left foam at the
mouth to this extent must be magnificent, almost messianic. The law
allows for the filing of suits against those leftists who organize
boycotts of Israel or parts of Israel, where those believing they have
suffered damages can sue the boycott organizers in court. No doubt
among the very first to be sued will be the ultra-anti-Israel Israeli
extremist Neve Gordon.
Haaretz this morning screams from its banner headline that 37 law
professors in Israel have denounced the new law. What Haaretz fails
to mention is that every one of those 37 is himself or herself a
radical leftist, and a few have themselves supported the BDS (boycott
divestment, sanctions) movement of economic aggression against Israel.
What Haaretz ALSO fails to note is that among those 37 law
professors, not a single one has spoke out against the infringements
of freedom of speech of rabbis and other non-leftists. Not a single
one has defended freedom of speech for anyone other than radical
leftists. In other words, they have long track records of refusal to
defend freedom of speech.
Boycott Law lets Israel defend itself
By ELIHU STONE
Facing ongoing attacks from the global BDS movement, Israel cannot be
expected to support those who work toward its economic destruction.
The anti-boycott legislation recently enacted by the Knesset has
invoked a firestorm of criticism from many, fulminating against such
legislation as inherently "undemocratic." Allow me to present an
alternative viewpoint, dealing with the particulars of the case.
Declaring that boycotts, per se, are illegal might be anti-democratic.
However, the legislation in question does not criminalize boycotts.
Rather, it provides a balance, allowing those who reject all (even
indirect) contact with Israel to act as they see fit – so long as they
do not harm otherwise binding contracts between parties who think
otherwise, by inciting for their economic destruction and
A careful reading of the bill shows that it merely provides possible
protection, via the creation of a civil tort, for individuals and
institutions (governmental, cultural and academic) that the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement means to strangle economically
– and most undemocratically.
Adherence to democratic principles neither demands nor compels a
democratic country to aid and abet all actions of those who
effectively deny it the right to self-defense and actively advocate
for its dissolution by any means short of armed assault. Moreover,
those who would squash others by economic means should hardly be heard
to complain when their intended victim chooses to withhold its
economic support (in the form of tax breaks, etc.) from them.
Israel's refusal to support its detractors in their declared efforts
to undermine the country's economy and blacklist all of its academic
and cultural institutions is eminently reasonable, and presents no
unfair surprise to those who have consistently exploited democratic
rhetoric and institutions in the service of undemocratic ends. It
remains a mysterium tremendum why those who would ostensibly utterly
shun Israel's government and urge others to do likewise are suddenly
upset that they are ineligible to compete for that government's
Any fair assessment of the Anti-Boycott legislation must take into
consideration relevant history and context. The BDS movement is no
phenomenon sui generis, springing out of thin air. Those with a sense
of regional history will recall the Arab boycotts of Jewish and
Zionist interests , that began well before the modern State of Israel
was recognized in 1948. Indeed, the Arab League boycott remains in
effect today, administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott
Office (CBO), a specialized bureau of the League.
THE BDS campaign – like the Arab boycott – targets not only Israel and
its institutions, but also companies that do business in or with
Israel. A fair read of the BDS movement's website reveals that its
ultimate goal, too, is the dismantling of the Jewish state –
continuing the all-out assault initiated by Arab armies in 1948 – via
economic means. BDS now constitutes at least as great a menace to
Israel and all who associate with it – and to the very notion of free
trade – as the original Arab Boycott.
Anti-Boycott legislation, used to effectively combat such threats, is
nothing new in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1977, the
US Congress passed legislation criminalizing cooperation with the Arab
boycott against Israel for American companies and individuals – and
authorizing the imposition of serious penalties against violators. The
legislation Israel has enacted is far less onerous for its opponents
than the US legislation is for its opponents.
Israel's legislation – like America's – appropriately withholds
governmental support from those who work toward its economic
destruction. The law also provides a mechanism for Israelis to defend
themselves from the (now) tortious interference with third-party
contracts, when such interference is premised solely on the
contracting parties' connection to Israel, its institutions or areas
under its control.
The wording of the Anti-Boycott measure might be improved upon; surely
the courts (which the BDS campaign targets as institutions of Israel)
will be called upon to interpret its scope and meaning, over time.
However, the basis of the law is sound.
To sum up: A majority of the Knesset has now agreed that Israel will
no longer be complicit in engineering its own demise. The legislature
has asserted its right to re-level the economic playing field and
provide the country's professors, farmers, merchants, entrepreneurs,
hospitals and cultural institutions with some mechanism for defending
themselves against the tyranny of those who would wreak commercial and
social havoc upon them.
Moreover, this bill – crafted to allow recourse via legal challenge of
those who call trans-nationally for trampling Israel's freedoms and
those of its trade partners – is not undemocratic in nature.
Unlike the pernicious boycotts it is meant to combat, this bill
actually serves to promote and maintain democratic ideals, such as
freedom of association, economic substantive due process and – yes –
the free exchange of ideas.
The writer practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts. He has served in
leadership roles for a variety of Jewish communal organizations and is
an alumnus of the Wexner Heritage Foundation. The writer recently took
the Israeli Bar Exam, and lives in Efrat.
3. From NGO Monitor:
Knesset "Anti-Boycott Law" Analysis and Critique
On Monday, July 11, the Knesset passed the "anti-boycott" bill
(translated below), which allows "citizens to bring civil suits
against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or
academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions
under Israeli control."
As explained below, NGO Monitor does not see this legislation as the
appropriate means to combat the BDS movement. However, numerous NGOs
have released misleading and false statements about the new law,
including the New Israel Fund, which wrongly claimed that the bill
"criminalizes freedom of speech," and Gush Shalom, which says the law
is "a death sentence for the right to freedom of expression."
The anti-boycott law does not specifically address boycotts of
"settlements;" it is meant to address calls for boycotts anywhere in
and against Israel. The global BDS movement targets all of Israel,
even within the Green Line, and explicitly rejects the existence of
Israel within any borders.
The intense public debate and discussion about the new law is
indicative of the strength and vibrancy of Israeli democracy, not its
decline, as many political advocacy NGOs have claimed. These same NGOs
are preparing to challenge the new law in the Israeli courts, another
sign of a strong democracy. Furthermore, those NGOs could have lobbied
MKs and presented alternatives, in order to stop the bill. Instead,
they spend more time and resources lobbying European Parliaments in
opposing Israeli government policy.
In addition, the intense attention from both NGOs and media regarding
the new law again demonstrates an obsession and disproportionate focus
on Israel. Human Rights Watch (HRW), for example, within hours of the
bill's passage, released a statement attacking the bill. In contrast,
it took the organization nearly a week to comment on the April 7
murder of an Israeli boy on a school bus targeted by a laser-guided
Hamas rocket. And HRW and other NGOs continue to underreport the
atrocities in Libya, Syria, North Korea, and other totalitarian
regimes in the region.
• The "Anti-Boycott bill" (MK Ze'ev Elkin - Likud), that passed into
law on Monday, July 11, allows "citizens to bring civil suits against
persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic
boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli
• NGO Monitor is concerned this new law is counterproductive, not the
most appropriate framework, and will only polarize important
discussions regarding the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)
movement against Israel. The law will not shed light or encourage
informed criticism on the NGOs and their foreign government funders
that lead most BDS campaigns.
• Regarding other legislation in June 2011 dealing with foreign
government NGO funding - MK Ofir Akunis's (Likud) bill on limiting
foreign government donations to NGOs and MK Faina Kirschenbaum's
(Israel Beiteinu) bill to revoke NGO tax-free status on donations from
foreign entities - Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor,
stated, "However, the answer to this challenge [NGO use of foreign
government funding] is not to curtail NGOs' freedom of
expression...Israel's vibrant democracy does not merely survive
criticism, it thrives and is improved by it, especially when much of
this 'criticism' can be exposed for what it really is: disingenuous
and ideologically motivated propaganda."
• In February 2011, the Knesset adopted the NGO Funding Transparency
Law (MK Ze'ev Elkin - Likud). The objective of this law is to provide
Israeli democracy and civil society with the information necessary to
assess the extent and impact of secret foreign government funding for
a narrow group of political advocacy NGOs, some of which promote
boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Many of the
NGOs that referred to the anti-boycott law as anti-democratic used the
same language regarding the NGO Transparency Law.
• Both the secrecy of these funding procedures and the manipulation of
civil society by external groups and governments violate the accepted
norms and practices among sovereign democratic nations.
• There is deep concern among Israel's democratically elected
representatives regarding foreign government funding of political
advocacy NGOs that are centrally involved in delegitimization
campaigns. This concern is also reflected consistently in public
The "Anti-Boycott Law," and other legislation regarding foreign
government funding of NGOs, is a response to the absence of basic
policy changes among the European governments that are responsible for
supporting the BDS movement.
Just like in America
Op-ed: US, European countries already have anti-boycott laws, so why
can't Israel have one?
The morning after the Boycott Law was passed, we woke up to a slew of
heartfelt leftist protests: "Debate is being stifled," "McCarthyism,"
"thought police," "the end of democracy."
For a moment, the malicious impression created here was that the
Knesset passed a law that would sentence any citizen endorsing the
land-for-peace formula to a life term with hard labor.
That's nonsense, of course. Nobody is silencing leftists, and there is
no rightist McCarthyism in Israel; what we have here is merely a camp
that never knows how to lose graciously.
Our democracy is stronger than ever and more appreciated than ever.
The great world out there barely cares about the new, soft law passed
here the other day. After all, quite a few Western states legislated
similar laws not too long ago, at the end of the 20th Century, in
order to fight the Arab boycott against Israel. France, for example,
as well as Belgium, Holland, Germany and Luxemburg.
Several years ago, a similar law was passed even in the United States,
the crown jewel of global democracy. It is indeed unimaginable that
only Israel of all countries will be prevented from passing a law
against anti-Israel boycotts.
Settlements aren't the focus
As opposed to all the chatter we're hearing, the focus of the new law
is not the settlements, but rather, the state as a whole. The
legislation's official title is "Law for preventing harm to the State
of Israel via boycotts." Its second clause, for example, refers to
those who "knowingly issue a public call for boycotting the State of
Israel." What's anti-democratic about this phrasing?
Isn't it time for Israel to adopt minimal defensive measures against
the dark forces that scheme to defeat it via economic means, after
losing hope of doing so through other means?
If a member of the leftist camp doesn't wish to use Jewish olive oil
that was produced in the territories, nobody will force him to do so.
When a store offers him occupied mineral water from the Golan Heights,
he will be able to say that he prefers water from the kosher
desalination plant in Ashkelon and stay alive.
Knesset Member Ze'ev Elkin's thought police will not be visiting such
people at night. It won't be visiting anyone. The new law doesn't turn
boycott fans into criminals. It merely grants the State, academic
institutions and private businesses an opportunity to collect
compensation from professional boycott organizers.
It may not be an ideal law, but imposing a boycott on ideological
grounds is not a very impressive act either. Instead of raising a hue
and cry, we should wonder how we didn't think about it