(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday announced his decision to defend the controversial new Boycott Law even though he says it has "legal difficulties."
The High Court ordered the state Tuesday evening to respond within 60 days to a petition filed by Gush Shalom calling on the court to overturn the new law.
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Several other Israeli left-wing NGOs, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Adalah, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Coalition of Women for Peace also announced that they would challenge the boycott law in the High Court.
Minutes after the “Boycott Bill” passed, left-wing organizations
expressed outrage at the new law, with Gush Shalom petitioning the High
Court on Tuesday afternoon for it to be overturned.
The Boycott Law makes calling for a boycott of Israeli products a “civil
wrong” and forbids the government from funding organizations that do
Gush Shalom activist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery told The Jerusalem Post
Tuesday evening that the Boycott Law is “a death sentence for the right
to freedom of expression” and compared it with laws introduced in
Germany in the 1930s.
“This law crosses the boundary between a democratic and a non- democratic society,” Avnery said.
In its petition, Gush Shalom describes boycotts as a legitimate tool for
democratic discourse, referencing the Haredi boycott of non-kosher
restaurants, Israel’s boycott on tourism to Turkey and the recent public
boycott of cottage cheese.
The petition calls on the High Court to overturn the law, which they
said will “silence any criticism of government policy in general and
government policy in the occupied territories in particular.”
The law prevents “the open, productive political dialogue that
constitutes the basis for the existence of democracy,” the petition
Avnery added that the petition said the Boycott Law will damage Israeli
companies seeking to expand their business to overseas markets and
prohibit companies from guaranteeing to overseas consumers that their
goods are not produced in the West Bank.
“We are hopeful that the High Court will rule against the law, and save what is left of Israeli democracy,” Avnery said.
Avnery slammed the attorney general's decision to defend the Boycott Law.
"Weinstein admits the law is problematic legally but behaves in a
cowardly manner rather than bravely leading a legal process. In his
announcement that he will defend the law in the High Court he is abusing
his office as one who is supposed to lead the country according to
democratic values. He should refuse to defend the law, which the High
Court is clearly not going to pass," Avnery said.
A coalition of Israeli left-wing NGOs also announced that they would challenge the law in the High Court.
“The new law seriously harms freedom of expression and freedom of
association,” according to a statement released by Physicians for Human
Rights – Israel, Adalah, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
and the Coalition of Women for Peace.
“Moreover, it gives protection to the illegal West Bank settlements in
Israeli law, by penalizing their opponents,” the statement read.
Hadas Ziv of Physicians for Human Rights said the law “signals a de jure
annexation of the settlements in the West Bank,” in that it will
“oblige individuals, companies and organizations to support the illegal
settlements by doing business with them.”
A Peace Now spokesman said Monday was a “historical day in which the
Knesset stopped representing the people and became the national thought
“It seems that the extreme right prefers to finish the argument over
settlements through anti-democratic legislation,” Peace Now said.
Libby Lenkinski of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said
Tuesday that the law sets a “dangerous precedent for limiting freedom of
expression, which is not befitting of a democracy” and also vowed to
petition the High Court.
On the right, NGO Monitor expressed concern that “this new law is not an
appropriate framework, and will only polarize important discussions
regarding the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel,
rather than shed light or encourage informed criticism.”
“The answer to this challenge,” NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg
said, “is not to curtail NGOs’ freedom of expression. Israel’s vibrant
democracy does not merely survive criticism; it thrives and is improved
NGO Monitor added that the anti-boycott bill is “a response to the
absence of basic policy changes among the European governments that are
responsible for these processes” by funding left-wing organizations.