Opposition MKs intensify efforts against 'Boycott Bill'

Anti-boycott law is expected to pass; PMO says it will not postpone vote; Meretz's Gal-On proposes bill to label products made in West Bank.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 11, 2011 03:18
4 minute read.
Israeli flag over settlements (illustrative).

Israeli flag flutters over settlement of Ofra 311 R. (photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)

 
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MKs on all sides of the political spectrum prepared for Monday’s vote on the “Boycott Bill,” with opposition factions drafting counter-legislation and working to enlist coalition members to vote against the proposed law.

MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) proposed on Sunday legislation requiring that all products manufactured in the West Bank be labeled as such.

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The “Boycott Bill, sponsored by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), would allow 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.

Should the measure pass in its second and third (final) readings on Monday, it would also prevent the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.

“Settlement products are part of the widespread occupation economy,” Gal- On said. “Requiring products to be labeled will allow Israeli consumers to fight against those who seek to defend the occupation, and won’t allow the differentiation between Israel and the occupied territory beyond the Green Line to be blurred.”

Gal-On pointed out that products exported to the European Union are labeled if they are manufactured in the West Bank. “Israeli citizens should know what European consumers know,” she said.



The current law requires packaging to include the manufacturer’s name and an address, but not the location of production.

“For me, blue and white stops at the Green Line,” Gal-On said. “I don’t buy products manufactured in the settlements.”

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Inon also came out against the “Boycott Bill” on Sunday, Channel 2 reported. He said its legality was questionable and that it would not stand the test of a challenge in the High Court of Justice, according to the report.

However, a Knesset spokesman said that Inon had yet to reach a conclusion, and plans to meet with Elkin on Monday morning before giving a legal assessment.

Elkin could decide on Monday to delay the votes, either because of Yinon’s opposition or because of the Middle East Quartet’s meeting taking place in Washington. A source close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said there was a “reasonable chance” that he would ask Elkin to delay the votes at the last minute.

The Prime Minister's Office, however, announced early Monday morning that it would not stop efforts to present the bill. If the votes do take place, the legislation is expected to be passed into law by a wide margin. The only coalition MKs who have come out against the bill are Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, ministers Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor and Independence faction chairwoman Einat Wilf. Eitan is abroad and the others are not expected to participate in the vote.

Likud Party members received a recorded phone call on Sunday explaining the bill and asked whether they supported it. The telephone poll was sponsored by the Likud’s nationalist task force, which reported that 91 percent of the 32,409 people who took part in the poll voted in favor of it, and only 9 percent voted against it.

In the opposition, Kadima is expected to decide on Monday to enforce faction discipline in order to force MKs who support the bill such as Ronit Tirosh and Otniel Schneller to vote against it.

“The bill is correct and I support it, but we’ll see what happens in the faction,” Tirosh said.

A successful filibustering maneuver by Kadima could harm the bill’s chances of approval because Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev’s daughter is getting married on Monday and his faction is invited to the wedding.

MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), one of the bill’s most vocal critics, told The Jerusalem Post it comes from “a lobby of settlers in the Knesset.”

“Their goal is to ensure that there is no public discussion of the most controversial topic – isolated settlements,” he said. “They want to limit freedom of expression and political protest.”

He said that the bill “uses the vaguest term – “calling for a boycott” – which means that even a post on Facebook could turn into a crime.

“The bill does not fight delegitimization, it only gives more ammunition to those who claim Israel is a non-democratic, apartheid state,” Plesner told the Post. “It harms democratic freedoms. I doubt it will pass the High Court’s standards.”

He also said that bureaucrats in the Foreign Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry have said that the bill will not be effective in combating boycotts abroad.

Dozens of left-wing activists gathered outside the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on Sunday to protest the legislation, in a demonstration organized by Peace Now.

Protesters held up signs reading “This law will destroy democracy,” “Stop the Boycott Bill,” “The settlers are not above the law” and “Fascism will not stand.”

“I think that Israel is slowly but surely becoming an authoritarian state,” demonstrator Tuvia Goodman of Tel Aviv said. He said that though Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East, it is “going towards dictatorship.”

Gush Shalom founder and former MK Uri Avnery said that if the bill passes, it will be a “black stain of shame in Israel’s law books.”

“This is a law to strengthen the settlements and immunize them,” Avnery said. “Anyone who dares criticize settlements will pay, simple as that. I call for MKs to vote against the ‘Boycott Bill,’ which kills what is left of Israeli democracy.”

Shira Frager and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.


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