Posted by Emily Gian on 14 July 2011 at 9:18pm:
The issue of BDS (Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions) against Israel has been a hot topic for some time but the boycott debate took another turn on Monday when the Israeli Knesset passed a law initiated by Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin. The law permits citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organisations that ‘deliberately avoid economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another factor only because of their ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage’ (see more).
The law was passed by a vote of 47 to 38, which, given that fact that 35 MKs did not participate at all the vote, is hardly an overwhelming majority. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Defence Minister Ehud Barak, were not present for the vote. Click here for a full roll call of how the vote went down.
The passage of the law has already attracted a great deal of debate from many sectors of Israeli society.
Meretz MK Mossi Raz declared, “last night, the Knesset passed one of the most dastardly laws in the history of the state of Israel… the Knesset broke the tools of the Israeli democracy, and we must now use these broken tools in order to defend Israel’s democracy” (see more).
A spokesperson from the main Opposition party, Kadima, declared that “Netanyahu has crossed a red line of political foolishness today and national irresponsibility, knowing the meaning of the law and it’s severity, while giving in to the extreme right that is taking over the Likud” (see more).
Putting aside the party-politics, over 30 law professors from Universities and Colleges across Israel also came together to petition against the law, categorically stating that ‘the Boycott Law is unconstitutional and does grievous harm to the freedom of political expression and freedom of protest’.
Professor Alon Harel, from the Hebrew University stated, “From a legal perspective, we’re talking about restrictions on political expression, when the restrictions are not neutral with regard o worldview, but are aimed at promoting one viewpoint and subjugating another, a clear expression of the tyranny of the majority” (see more).
Concerning the BDS movement in general, Harel said, “Personally I don’t support boycotts of any sort… But I think that the part of the Jewish people that is concerned about the policy towards the territories should be permitted to express its opinion, even it it’s by boycotting products”.
The U.S State Department was asked to comment on the law and while it stated that it was an “Israeli internal matter” it did state that “Freedom of expression, including freedom to peacefully organise and protest, is a basic right under democracy… It is a right that the American people hold dear and it is among the democratic values that the Israeli and American people have long shared”(see more). While some defenders of the new law are saying that the US and France have similar laws, apparently a Knesset research report concluded that it could not find examples of similar laws in Western democracies (see more).
The American Anti-Defamation League declared that the law impinges on the “basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression… to legally stifle calls to action – however abhorrent and detrimental they might be – is a disservice to Israeli society” (see more).
The EU stated that they “recognise Israel’s sovereignty in the legislative process. Furthermore, the EU does not advocate boycotts… However, as part of such fundamental values as free expression and speech that the EU cherishes and shares with Israel, we are concerned about the effect that this legislation may have on the freedom of Israeli citizens and organisations to express non-violent political opinion” (see more).
Despite not taking part in the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the anti-boycott law stating, “don’t get confused… I approve the law, and if I hadn’t approved it, it wouldn’t have been passed. I am against boycotts targeting Israel”. He continued, “what stains (Israel’s) image are those savage and irresponsible attacks on a democracy’s attempt to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not” (see more).
Another defence of the bill came from an anonymous Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post which said, “adherence to democratic principles neither demands nor compels a democratic country to aid and abet all actions of those who effectively deny it the right to self-defence and actively advocate for its dissolution by any means short of armed assault” (see more).
The issue is now being taken to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, it would seem that the law is having the opposite effect on certain groups such as Peace Now, who formerly had never called for a boycott against products produced over the Green Line. Since the law has passed, the organisation “will call for a boycott of the settlements until the occupation is over and a Palestinian state is founded next to the state of Israel” (see more). The Meretz USA website has also compiled a list of products that they will now be boycotting.
I have stated on a number of occasions that I find the entire BDS movement absolutely repugnant, and that I wholeheartedly disagree with any Israeli or Jewish organisation willing to stand up against the law and declare that they are going to boycott any element of Israeli society. As Professor Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor stated, “Israel’s vibrant democracy does not merely survive criticism, it thrives and is improved by it, especially when much of this ‘criticism’ can be exposed for what it really is: disingenuous and ideologically motivated propaganda” (see more). The Israeli Government has a responsibility to counter the BDS movement, but it must be done in more productive way.
In other news, the total flop that was the Flotilla 2 was followed up on Friday in Israel by what pro-Palestinian activists dub the “flytilla”. The plan was to fly into Israel on commercial flights on or around 8 July and to publicly announce the intention to reach the Palestinian Authority administered territories (see more).
Steps were taken by the Israeli government to prevent activists from flying in from Europe. More than 124 who did make it through were immediately detained by Israel. A report from ynet said that 50 activists made it to their intended destination in the West Bank (see more).
Former Green’s MP Sylvia Hale, whose original plan was to reach Gaza on one of the flotillas (and whose misguided mission I reported on here) and fellow activist Vivienne Porzsolt were detained after expressing their intention to travel to Bethlehem. However, a judge in Israel’s District Court released them on $410 bail each and gave them 24 hours to apply through the proper channels to visit the West Bank (see more).
The “flotilla” and “flytilla” people are obviously not in it for humanitarian reasons. Even if there really was a humanitarian crisis in the disputed territories, the money spent on travel either by boat or planes, on lawyers, bail and associated expenses could be better spent by direct donations to those in Gaza or the West Bank who they really feel needs the aid.
Of course, the activists’ stunts aren’t about providing any meaningful aid to the people of Gaza and the West Bank.
On the other hand, there are growing reports of hunger and deprivation crippling the oppressed people of Syria, Libya and Yemen but the flotillistas are not interested in aiding these people or flying into their capital cities to demonstrate their solitary or help feed those in the region that most need help (see more).
That the flotillas were not about delivering aid to the people of Gaza comes straight from the mouth of Nadia Hijab, one of the organisers of the flotilla who said, “It was never about aid. Freedom Flotilla II is, like its assaulted predecessor of a year ago, a political act” (see more).
So we know now why people like Hale and Porzsolt flip, flop around the world tilting at windmills in flotillas and flytillas. They are not pro-Palestinian. They are anti-Israel and the statements they seek to make with their political acts are designed to delegitimise Israel and, as such, they are enemies of peace.
Finally, last week, UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories Richard Falk, posted an anti-Semitic cartoon on his blog in which Jews and Americans were depicted as bloodthirsty dogs (see more). This man has form as a rabid hater of Israel and as a liar. He was expelled from Israel in December 2008 because, among other things, his legitimisation of Hamas terrorism and for drawing shameful and hideous comparisons to the Holocaust (see more).
When the publication of the cartoon was exposed, Falk responded by saying, “it is a complete lie. I know nothing about such a cartoon, and would never publish such a thing, ever”. He was lying. When he was exposed, his weak explanation was, “Maybe I do not understand the cartoon, and if it offends in this way I have removed it from the blog. It may be in bad taste to an extent I had not earlier appreciated, but I certainly didn’t realise that it could be viewed as anti-semitic, and still do not realise.”
A few hours later Falk continued, “I did not perceive any racist connotations, and certainly no anti-semitic implications, and since it offends people I have removed it without understanding why” (see more).
There have been calls to the UN to remove him from his post, or to force him to resign. A decent person would not have to be convinced or pushed to resign but Falk is employed by the United Nations so I suppose his position is secure.
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IS THERE TO BE NO CONSTRAINT ON FREEDOM TO EXPRESS LIES AND OTHER FALSITIES AND MISREPRESENTATION?
NOW THAT WOULD BE ANTI-DEMOCRATIC, WOULD IT NOT?.
e.g.: FOR THE AGE CORRESPONDENT THIS WEEK, ISRAEL’S PRESENCE IN J AND S IS ILLEGAL DESPITE THE FULL MEANING OF 242. (Ed’s note: Age article is here)
JUST SLIP THE “I – WORD” IN.
It has been my personal view that we as Jews are our worst enemies. This can be backed up by many occasions recorded throughout our history, going back to our forefathers walking through the desert, before entering Eretz Israel.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel as the ONLY Democratic country in the Middle East, some of our members of the Kneset have become protectors of the our own enemies, inside the State of Israel, claiming that the State of Israel is mistreating the Palestinians.
I lived in Israel until 1967, and I didn’t experience such an attitude from within our own people, to the extend that it’s now! This gives further ammunition to our enemies to declare that the State of Israel has no right to exist! What has this world come to? I am referring to so called “ intelligent and educated people” who lead the opposition to our country’s existence! What motivate them to act in this way? Would they rather see a Palestinian government ruling in Israel?
May I suggest that these so called “Academics” cross the border into any of the following countries, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt or Jordan, or even try and get into Ramallah, and apply for citizenship, if they don’t get arrested or killed, as they try to enter any of the above countries / city!
Even better, let them try and demonstrate in any of these countries / city against the current regime for democracy! These “Academics” live in glass houses, and have no idea what is happening around them!
My message to them is :
GROW UP AND FACE REALITY AND RESPECT YOUR COUNTRY AND ITS LAWS, BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T, YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF BEING THROWN OUT OF THE STATE THAT WAS BUILT BY OUR PIONEERS, WITH BLOOD AND TEARS!