Despite the objections of leftwing MKs and the professional opinions of the
Justice and Foreign ministries, the Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday approved
for first reading in the plenum a bill that aims to sanction boycotts against
The bill proposes to place a NIS 30,000 fine on anyone who
initiates, encourages or provides assistance to boycotts against a person
because of his ties to Israel or an area under Israel’s control.
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request of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, additional clauses that
would sanction non-Israelis, as well as foreign states and entities that
boycotted Israel, were removed from the legislation.
The bill was
submitted by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin and sponsored by 27 MKs from Likud,
Israel Beiteinu, Shas, Habayit Hayehudi, United Torah Judaism and Kadima in its
In presenting the measure, Elkin said that it is
ridiculous that the United States has a law protecting Israel from boycotts, but
that Israel doesn’t.
“It is time to put an end to this absurd situation.
A citizen who acts out against Israel must know that he will face consequences,”
Reactions to the bill from the Left were unanimously
Hadash MK Dov Henin said it was the latest in an emerging trend
of anti-democratic legislation promoted by Israel Beiteinu.
“The bill is
crass, aggressive, brutal and anti-democratic,” Henin said. “The true
significance of the bill is far-reaching and seeks to enlist the political
Center to the agenda of the extreme Right. Its true intent is to determine that
Israel and the occupied territories are one and the same.”
that if the bill becomes law, it would mean that people who sit at a restaurant
and ask to return a bottle of wine produced in the West Bank, because they
object to Israeli settlement there, would be subject to a large
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz demanded to hear the bills exact
definition of a boycott.
“I searched the Internet to see what Israelis
are boycotting these days, and I saw boycotts against the gas companies,
boycotts against the Hermon ski resort, boycotts against Ikea and H&M,
boycotts against Bar Refaeli... These are all legitimate public battles and a
way for people to express their dislike of something. This bill has no
definition of what constitutes a boycott. What will you sue people for? Where
are the limits?” Horowitz asked.
Meretz chairman Haim Oron chose to
attack the legislation from a wider angle. He challenged its supporters by
asking them how they thought a law forbidding a boycott against a country would
be accepted by the international community.
“How will you be able to
justify Israel calling for a boycott against Iran?” he asked.
Hanna Sweid said the bill was meant to intimidate critics of government policies
and was a clear violation of the freedom of expression.
Labor MK Eitan
Cabel said the bill has no place in a democratic society and that it smelled of
a nation living in fear. “The bill creates the feeling that Israel is cowardly
and secluded, it presents us as weak and unconfident,” Cabel said.
MK Yochanan Plesner, whose party co-sponsored the measure, said it would harm
Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of the world.
“I don’t believe that
anyone here seriously believes that this bill will reverse the anti-Israel trend
in the international community.
If anything, it will do the opposite,”
Additional criticism of the bill was expressed by the
professional ranks of the Justice, Industry, Trade and Labor, and Foreign
ministries. The Justice Ministry representative at the Law Committee meeting
said the definition of boycott was overly vague and would require a more narrow
wording to pass judicial review.
The Foreign Ministry representative said
the bill, in its current form, would not help in the ministry’s efforts to
oppose anti-Israel boycotts and delegitimization, and would in fact harm
Israel’s relations with foreign countries in general and with other democracies
in particular because of its implications for freedom of
Additional objections were raised by the Association for
Civil Rights, the Israel Democracy Institute and the Manufacturers
After a fiery discussion, which included a procedural
commotion, the bill was passed with its opponents storming out of the room,
refusing to participate in the vote.