'If you boycott us, we'll boycott you'

Bill by MK Schneller calls for labeling of imports from 'anti-Israel' countries.

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June 3, 2007 22:00
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Any country that boycotts Israel or any Israeli products will have all of its imports to Israel tagged with stickers reading, "This country is involved in an anti-Israel boycott," if a bill to be submitted by MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) on Monday becomes law. "When we are boycotted, we should respond in kind. When we are isolated by a country, we should isolate them in return," Schneller said Sunday. The MK drafted the legislation in response to a recent series of anti-Israel boycott calls by organizations in the United Kingdom.

  • 'Boycott reminiscent of totalitarianism' Last week, the British Union of Colleges and Universities decided to consider a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. In mid-June, the UK's public services union (UNISON) will vote on a boycott proposal. If the proposal passes, UNISON's 1.4 million members will cut economic ties with the Jewish state. "We must respond to this current trend in England. If the British think that they can pass judgement on us as a group and boycott us in this manner, than we must respond similarly to the British," Schneller said. MKs Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu), Moshe Kahlon (Likud), Danny Yatom (Labor), and Ya'acov Margi (Shas) have pledged to support Schneller's bill. The details of the bill, such as the type and size of sticker, have yet to be determined. If the bill is approved, all British products imported to Israel would be labelled as originating in a hostile country. "It is important for people to know where the products they are buying come from," said Schneller. He added that if the British were to stop using computer systems from Israel, the UK couldn't function. And "if they boycotted medicines that were researched or created in Israel, half of England would be sick." Even if the bill is earmarked for accelerated approval by the Knesset House Committee, it would take several months to pass through the three stages of voting in the Knesset. The cabinet prepared its reaction to the boycott calls on Sunday morning, with a number of ministers preparing targeted responses to the boycott. "There is a long history of anti-Semitism in Europe, which includes one-sided articles and anti-Semitic harassment, topped by the torching of the synagogue in Switzerland, said Welfare and Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog. "Israel must fight this, and the entire international community should take part in the effort." During the weekly cabinet meeting, it was decided that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would hold a meeting to formulate an appropriate response to the boycotts. According to Foreign Ministry officials, the meeting - which will include members of academia - will draw up an action plan on how to combat the boycotts and to keep them from gaining momentum. Some in the Foreign Ministry have said privately that Israel has not done enough over the last few months - as various groups in Britain debated boycott and divestiture - to protest these moves, and to persuade the British government to register its opposition loudly and publicly as well. Livni spoke to British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett on Friday and said Israel viewed these steps "gravely" and that they stood in complete opposition to the good relations that exist between the two countries. Meanwhile, Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai said he had begun meeting with business leaders from both Israel and abroad to discuss what effect a boycott could have. Last week, the Histadrut Labor Federation said it would begin holding talks with Israeli businessmen to discuss the possible ramifications. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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