Homegrown Israeli BDS activists may face punitive measures

Israeli-Arab MK Tibi: Boycotting is a democratic right, occupation should be boycotted.

WOMEN HOLD pins that advocate a boycott against Israel (photo credit: REUTERS)
WOMEN HOLD pins that advocate a boycott against Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A government task force formed to deport foreign activists calling to boycott Israel will also try to find punitive measures to take against their allies who are citizens or legal residents, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Monday.
“We’ve formed a legal team that will look at what can be done against boycott organizations, even if they’re Israeli,” he told Army Radio. “Of course, it’s a more complicated matter, because it comes in conflict with free speech.”
Nevertheless, he said, “we will take real steps against them.”
Erdan called the deliberations on what to do about Israeli residents and citizens encouraging boycotts and delegitimization a “separate debate” from the Public Security Ministry and Interior Ministry task force that will began working on deporting “hundreds” of foreign boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists.
“There are activists from foreign NGOs who come from around the world and enter Israel,” Erdan stated. “Some pass through the West Bank and they film there, track security forces’ activities, and some act within the Green Line to incite sedition and convince people to refuse to enlist in the IDF…They twist what they see here and spread lies to convince people to boycott and delegitimize Israel. It’s an unacceptable phenomenon, and no sane country would allow it.”
The Likud minister said criticizing the government and its policies is “super, super legitimate,” but that criticizing and encouraging boycotts and delegitimization are different categories.
He pointed to laws in France and US states that forbid boycott activities.
“It doesn’t make sense that boycotts are illegal in many parts of the free world, but there’s no price for it in Israel,” he added. “So now it’ll have a price…Our democracy is defending itself.”
Erdan said the task force has yet to come up with its standard for who would be deported.
MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) responded to the efforts, saying that “boycotts are a non-violent democratic tool that is accepted around the world.
Such steps break the rules of democracy and freedom of expression. This is a continuation of the law that criminalizes whoever calls to boycott settlements.
We may and we must boycott settlements and their products, and we may promote” boycotts, he said, adding, “The occupation deserves to be boycotted.”
The anti-boycott law in question does not carry criminal charges. According to legislation passed in 2011, any person or organization calling to boycott Israel or a region of Israel, including the West Bank, can be sued without proof of damage by the targets of the boycott.
In addition, such a person or organization may not bid in government tenders.
In 2015, the High Court canceled a part of the law allowing for punitive damages in such lawsuits.
Erdan lamented in the Army Radio interview that the law was “not properly implemented.”