Anti-boycott bill passes first Knesset reading



Hadash MK says legislation aimed at punishing Israeli companies which do not sell to settlements violates freedom of expression. Bill allowing State to revoke citizenship of individuals convicted of terror, espionage offences also approved in first reading






The Knesset plenum on Monday (March 7, 2011) passed in first reading a bill which would impose harsh punitive fines on Israelis who call for academic or economic boycotts against Israeli institutions and settlements in the Palestinian territories. Thirty-two members of Knesset voted in favor of the “Boycott Law,” while 12 MKs opposed it.





Among other things, the bill is aimed at punishing Israeli companies which won a tender for the construction of the Palestinian city Rawabi on condition that they do not supply services or sell merchandise to settlements in the West bank.




MK Hanna Swaid of Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Communist Party of Israel) said the law is aimed at perpetuating the occupation, adding that it “violates freedom of expression and every citizen’s right to choose to boycott products from the occupied territories. There is racism here which must be condemned.”




A short while after the vote, the ‘Citizenship Law” also passed its first reading on the Knesset floor. If passed into law, the controversial bill would allow the State to revoke the citizenship of individuals who were convicted of “terror and espionage offences against Israel, as well as revoke the citizenship of those convicted of undermining Israel’s sovereignty, instigating war or aiding the enemy”.




The bill’s initiators, MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov of fascist party “Israel Beiteinu” said the legislation is aimed at “stressing the connection between the right to Israeli citizenship and loyalty to the state”.




On the bill 



The preamble to the bill states that its aim is “to protect the State of Israel in general and its citizens in particular from academic, economic and other boycotts targeting the state, its citizens and its corporations because of their connection to the state”.



The draft law distinguishes among boycotts by Israeli residents or citizens; by foreign residents or nationals; and by foreign states, through legislation. It explicitly includes boycotts that affect the West Bank, such as boycotts of goods and services originating in settlements there.



Under the provisions of the bill, the court could levy a fine of up to NIS 30,000 on Israeli citizens calling for or taking party in boycotts against Israel. Foreign citizens who violate the law could be prohibited from entering Israel for 10 years or more.



Foreign states that pass laws leading to a boycott of Israel or of Israeli products could be barred from carrying out transactions in Israeli bank accounts and from trading in Israeli stocks, land or real estate. In addition, the state could suspend the transfer of payments owed to the states. Israeli citizens who have suffered damage as a result of the boycott could sue for compensation, to be paid out of the frozen funds.



The boycott bill was first submitted on June 2010 by 25 Knesset members and endorsed by members of various factions. Its hazy wording would make a number of actions, now considered free speech, illegal. It is prohibited to initiate a boycott against the State of Israel and “the territories under Israeli control”, to encourage participation in it, or to provide assistance or information with the purpose of advancing it”, section 2 of the proposed bill states.




Sections 3 and 4 of the proposed legislation state that, “An act of a citizen or resident of Israel in violation of Section 2 constitutes a civil wrong, and it will be subject to the provisions of the Torts Ordinance,” and “The court will award compensation for the civil wrong according to this law in the following manner: a. Punitive damages of up to 30,000 NIS to an injured party subject to the proof of any damage.”




If proven they participated in a boycott, individuals who are not citizens or residents of Israel can also be punished by having their right to enter the country denied for at least 10 years, according to the proposed legislation.



Eilat Maoz, Coalition of Women for Peace Coordinator, responded to the bill saying: “This is a step up in which the government isn’t satisfied with persecution of left wing organizations, but tries to make leftist protest illegal and silence its citizens. It’s a government that’s afraid of democratic debate, because such a debate will expose the disagreement of the public with the destructive policies of the occupation and the settlements.”