Leftist groups unite to stop Knesset boycott bill

Peace Now sends MKs black flags, warns bill would turn Knesset into a "thought police," limit freedom of expression.

Peace Now members preparing black flags for MKs 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Peace Now members preparing black flags for MKs 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A coalition of leftist groups will demonstrate outside the Justice Ministry on Sunday in an effort to prevent the passage of the “Boycott Bill,” which is expected to be voted into law by the Knesset the next day.
The legislation, sponsored by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), allows citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions, or “regions under Israeli control.”
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It would prevent the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.
Elkin and Kadima MKs initiated the bill following reports that companies had accepted contracts to build the new Palestinian city of Rawabi, north of Ramallah, that were contingent on accepting boycotts of Israel.
Efforts by Israeli actors to boycott the Ariel Center for the Performing Arts that opened last November in Samaria also inspired the legislation.
Peace Now sent all 120 MKs black flags to warm them of the ramifications of the bill, which the organization warns will turn the Knesset into a “thought police” and severely limit freedom of expression.
“At a time when the leaders of the country are encouraging the public to boycott high-priced dairy products, the Knesset wants to forbid by law the use of a legitimate tool for citizens to express their political opinion,” Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer wrote the lawmakers. “Even those who support the settlements should maintain the public discourse over their future and prevent forcing their opinions on others via antidemocratic legislation in the Knesset.”
A spokesman for the Coalition of Women for Peace, which is organizing Sunday’s rally, said the legislation could still be defeated, because there are MKs in the coalition who oppose it.
Elkin rejected charges that the bill would harm freedom of expression.

“I am for freedom of expression, but individual freedoms don’t give anyone the right to harm someone else,” Elkin said. “Boycotts harm people. I fight for the right of people to say what they think, even if they are criticizing our policies in Judea and Samaria, but it’s different if they say to harm someone because they live in Judea and Samaria.”