boycott israeli goods 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset Law Committee passed in first reading a watered-down version of a
bill prohibiting boycotts of Israel and the West Bank on Monday.
was revised after the original proposal was shot down by the professional ranks
of the Justice, Foreign Affairs and Industry, Trade and Labor ministries for
being likely to harm Israeli interests abroad.
The new version of the
bill, submitted by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) following
consultations with the Justice Ministry, defined boycott as “an intentional
avoidance of economic, cultural or academic relations with a person or another
agent, solely because of their ties to the State of Israel, its institutions or
areas under its control.”
The bill proposes that anyone who knowingly and
publicly calls for such a boycott be found as having committed a civil injustice
and be punished by law.
The original bill, submitted at the beginning of
last month, proposed a fine of NIS 30,000 on anyone initiating, encouraging or
providing assistance to boycotts, although it included no definition whatsoever
of what in fact constituted a boycott.
Like the original draft, the
revised bill was also harshly criticized by left-wing MKs who claimed that the
definition of boycott was still too vague and as such could harm citizens’
rights to freedom of expression.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said that
while the new bill was a vast improvement over the original – which in his words
was “outrageous and dangerous” – it still poses unnecessary restrictions on the
expression of legitimate opinions.
“If I publish an opinion article
stating that school children should not go on field trips to West Bank
settlements, will I be punishable by law?” he asked. “We can’t pass a bill that
forbids me from publicly voicing an opinion. The definition is still too
Kadima MK Yochanan Plessner suggested adopting instead a more
specific definition of boycott dealing with financial harm only, claiming that
the prohibition of cultural boycotts was too political and would prevent
legitimate forms of protest. He also expressed concern that the prohibition
spoke about the actions of individuals and suggested that it be changed to
include only larger organizations.
“The individual’s right to free
expression is the ABCs of democracy,” Plessner said.
professional ranks of the ministries were not given a chance to weigh in on the
revised version of the bill, committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu)
promised that they would be heard once the bill returned to the committee for
its second and third readings.
The MKs voted on the revised version and
passed it by a vote of eight to four.
“It is time for Likud and Israel
Beiteinu MKs stop the shameful contest between them over the destruction of
Israel’s democratic values and start strengthening what has always been our
source of pride – the fact that we are a bastion of democratic sanity in the
Middle East,” Plessner said after the discussion.
organization Gush Shalom, which in the past has called for boycotts against
products made in the settlements, said the change to the bill had been merely
cosmetic and that it remained anti-democratic.
“Blurring the lines
between the settlements and Israeli territories plays into the hands of our
enemies,” the group said in a press release.