Liberman bill would take campaign funding from BDS supporting politicians

Proposal would apply to Joint List, which has MKs who back BDS, and Meretz, which supports boycotting settlement products.

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June 18, 2015 15:09
3 minute read.
Boycott Israel sign

Boycott Israel sign. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A bill proposed by Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman Thursday would prevent parties that call for or encourage boycotts of Israel or Israeli products, or have MKs who do so, from receiving government campaign funding.

The legislation, an amendment to the existing campaign finance law, states that a party cannot receive government funding for its campaign if a public committee determined it knowingly and publicly called for a boycott of Israel, and there is a reasonable possibility that the call led to people boycotting Israel, and the party is aware of that possibility.

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“Boycott” is defined according to the definition in the 2011 Law to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel Through Boycotts: calling for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control.

The bill’s explanatory portion states that if the government is fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, then it should not fund parties in the Knesset that call or support boycotts.

“There is no doubt that calling for boycotts and harming the State of Israel and its citizens from within the legislature is particularly grave and has greater harm than similar calls from others,” it reads. “How does it make sense that citizens of Israel’s taxes fund those who call to harm their ability to make a living and the state’s economy?” Liberman also said calls to boycott Jewish products are a new form of anti-Semitism, which should not be allowed in the Knesset.

The bill was inspired by calls from Meretz and Joint List MKs to boycott settlement products.

Some Joint List lawmakers expressed support for boycotting all of Israel, as well.

Last month, Meretz proposed a bill to label all products with the region in which they were made, with party chairwoman Zehava Gal-On saying its purpose is to make it easier for consumers to identify settlement products, should they want to boycott them.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated a call to withdraw the legislation, but Gal-On remained defiant. The bill is unlikely to pass, and identical proposals were rejected by the last two Knessets.

Also Wednesday, in a Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee meeting on academic boycotts, MK Masud Gnaim (UAL) and MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) of the Joint List called boycotts a legitimate political tool to exert pressure.

“There is an entire generation [of Palestinians] that cannot learn and move. Israel does not criticize itself at all, and the world lost all faith or trust it had for Israel. Therefore, it has taken upon itself to bring a solution by using boycotts,” said Zoabi.

The Arab-Jewish Hadash Party, which is the most moderate of the parties in the Joint List, declared earlier this month that it supports boycotting Israeli companies in the settlements, however, it does not support the BDS movement or a general boycott of Israel.

“Hadash welcomes all expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people in its just struggle, including boycotting commercial enterprises that are involved in the occupation and in violation of the Palestinian people’s rights,” the party said.

“This is a legitimate manner of civil resistance.”

Representatives from the three other parties of the Joint List – the southern Islamic Movement’s United Arab List, Ta’al and ultranationalist Balad – confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that they also back this position. For them, boycotting the settlements is nothing new.

Not to be outdone, the next day Balad MK Basel Ghattas announced his support for BDS.

“The boycott is only the beginning of a process that cannot be reversed. As long as Israel continues the occupation, the boycott will continue and justly so,” said Ghattas.

Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.


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