After the Boycott Law: an inquiry commission against Left and human rights groups

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) addressed the Yisrael Beiteinu faction’s decision to bring up the proposal to establish a parliamentary inquiry commission against Left, peace and human right groups for final approval. Khenin said: “It’s an old style political persecution. Even if the proposal will be brought up before the Knesset plenum we’ll object it.”

The racist  Yisrael Beiteinu faction is planning to arrange a Knesset vote on a proposal to set up a commission of inquiry against leftist groups less than a day after the ‘boycott bill’ passed a Knesset vote.

Left-wing Knesset members were outraged by the proposal, with MK Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Meretz faction, calling it “a political inquisition”.

Boycott campaign by Peace Now, yesterday in Tel-Aviv (Photo: Peace Now)

“The Boycott Law has whetted the appetite of the settler Coalition. This is an attempt at perpetuating the persecution of left-wing and civil organizations. What will be the next step? Sham trials? she asked.

MK Khenin compared Yisrael Beiteinu’s initiative to McCarthyism while MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) said the party was competing with the Likud over which of them is more racist.

In response to the “Boycott Law”, Israeli peace organizations launched Tuesday a series of protests. The Gush Shalom movement took its campaign to the legal level and filed a petition to the Supreme Court claiming the boycott law is unconstitutional and anti-democratic.

“The boycott law is another attempt by the parliamentary majority in Israel to silence any criticism against the government’s policies in general and its policies in the occupied territories in particular, and prevent an open and productive political discourse, which is the backbone of a democratic regime,” the petition said.

In the hours following the law’s approval approximately 2,000 people joined the Facebook page opened by Peace Now movement calling for a boycott of products from the settlements. The Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah movement  joined that call, and say that so far around 2,500 people have petitioned against the bill.

When asked how the Boycott Law is worse than other racist and anti-democratic laws passed this year, including the Nakba, Etay Mizrav, national activities coordinator for Peace Now, said, “The difference between this law and the other ones, is that this law is the first time that the Knesset has come and said here is a political standpoint – being against the settlements – which is not legally allowed.”

In regards to what steps Peace Now plans to take in response to the new law, Mizrav said, “We plan to call for people to not honor the law and to have a general boycott against all products made in the settlements.”

According to a Wednesday report in Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the US Jewish community seems remarkably united in deeming the measure an affront to freedom of expression.  “We’re disappointed that they passed the law,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for the Jewish public policy groups, said.

The Anti-Defamation League suggested in a public statement that the legislation is “not the appropriate way to combat boycotts”. ADL director Abraham Foxman said “We hope Israel’s Supreme Court will quickly take up a review of this law and resolve the concerns it raises.”  Joining the ADL in issuing statements condemning the law were various peace Jewish groups, such as the New Israel Fund, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

“When you start to persecute unpopular opinions, there really is no end point,” said Naomi Paiss, a spokeswoman for the New Israel Fund. The Israeli Embassy in Washington has reportedly received a torrent of calls seeking clarification on the matter by Jewish groups and individuals.