Knesset legal advisor: 'Boycott Bill' borderline illegal

Yinon says bill creates legal penalties for expression in an issue that's been at the heart of political debate in Israel for over 40 years.

Knesset session 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Knesset session 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset's legal adviser Eyal Yinon presented his legal opinion on the "Boycott Bill" Monday, saying that the proposed law is borderline illegal.
"The broad definition of a boycott on the state of Israel is a violation of the core tenet of freedom of political expression and elements in the proposed bill are borderline illegal," Yinon said in a letter.
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"There is one component among others which violates constitutional law," he said, explaining that any individual is empowered to enforce the law by seeking damages, and it allows one to seek monetary compensation that is not dependent on the actual damages caused.
"This violation together along with the broad definition given of a 'boycott on the State of Israel' creates a [legal] cause of damages in compensation for calls to boycott, whose goal is to affect the political debate on the future of Judea and Shomron, a debate which has been at the heart of political debate in the State of Israel for over 40 years."
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.
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.
Shira Frager contributed to this report.