Israeli Supreme Court Upholds ‘Anti-Boycott Law’

By Sarah Saadoun | (Human Rights Watch) –

On Wednesday, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld key provisions of the country’s “anti-boycott law,” which makes it a civil offense for people or groups to advocate boycotting Israeli or settlement products, institutions, or individuals, and the advocacy has a reasonable chance of succeeding. The decision legitimizes violations of the rights to freedom of expression and association, and punishes advocacy urging businesses to respect international law.

Enacted in 2011, the Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Through Boycott allows private plaintiffs to sue for civil damages against anyone who publicly calls for or commits to “avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties” with Israel or “an area under its control” – a reference to the occupied Palestinian territories – as long as they can show harm. It also allows the government to strip nongovernmental organizations that advocate for such a boycott of their tax-exempt status, potentially forcing them to shut down.

The court, however, struck down the law’s most extreme provisions, which allowed companies to sue those advocating a boycott for punitive damages without even showing any proof of harm.

The Israeli human rights and civil society groups that were the petitioners in the case argued that the law shuts down a legitimate form of nonviolent protest. The nine judges hearing the case agreed that the law “indeed infringes on freedom of expression,” but unanimously declared that the infringement was justified in the context of boycotts of the state of Israel. Four judges dissented, however, with respect to boycotts targeting Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. One, Judge Uzi Vogelman, opined that the law’s prohibition of calling for boycotting settlements “is liable to silence political expression about the area [under Israel’s military control].” 

The law’s impact goes beyond chilling political debate: It subjects to potential lawsuit and damages anyone who calls on companies to uphold their human rights responsibilities by avoiding doing business with settlements, even though the transfer of population inherent in the settlements violates the Fourth Geneva Convention. The law also effectively prohibits Israeli companies from publicly committing to heed such a call.

Two days before the ruling, Human Rights Watch released a report, “Ripe for Abuse.” The report, which documents Palestinian child labor in Israeli agriculture settlements in the West Bank, finds that companies involved in settlement agriculture unavoidably contribute to or benefit from the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law associated with settlements. Human Rights Watch therefore urges commercial businesses to cease trading with settlements and governments to prohibit such trade in order to abide by their responsibilities not to contribute to or benefit from human rights abuses. We take no position on civil society initiatives to boycott Israel, but even this limited call makes us vulnerable under the anti-boycott law.

Instead of supporting human rights principles, the Israeli Supreme Court has approved a law that punishes those who do.

Via Human Rights Watch

Related video added by Juan Cole:

RT America: “Activists boycott Re/Max involvement in West Bank expansion”

4 Responses

  1. They can put some legalistic framework on it, or ask Martians to enforce it, but the Boycott is here to stay. I just avoided some Jaffa Mandarins yesterday and happily went to get some yummy Moroccan ones instead. They are better anyways. The road is long and I can’t see the end yet but like a newly sober alcoholic I will keep coming.

  2. Like all national laws, these laws are only effective inside Israel. As the world is learning with Iran, even these days, it is still insanely easy to set up front companies to facilitate smuggling and money laundering (which humans have been doing for thousands of years).

    Non-Israelis that want to boycott Israel can easily do so by setting up all sorts of legal fictions to protect any assets they might have in Israel.

    People that have tried to sue Argentina for defaulting on their bonds are discovering that there are lots of ways to make assets disappear such that any eventual judgement is worthless.

    This is the same as all the stupid laws the congress critter pass that do not have any meaning outside the USA.

    In the end , Israel is still going to suffer economic damage no matter what their “laws” are.

    • As you’ve pointed out in prior postings, China is going to be the great financial power of the future, so the question is, where will China’s relentless opposition to instability place it on the I-P issue? China hates any successful rebellion against any government, no matter how egregious, because it fears that its own people might get ideas. But the Occupation is:
      a. becoming inimical to stability
      b. stripping Israel of all its past trading partners except the US – which has no leverage against China at all.

      Logically China can afford to screw Israel if that is necessary to appease more valuable trade partners in Central Asia and the Middle East.

  3. I’m willing to buy from them as soon as a mutually acceptable settlement is implemented between the Israeli regime and the Palestinians which, in view of the absence of a duly elected sovereign Palestinian government, would need to be approved by a majority vote of the Palestinians including involuntary exiles. At present the only solution that presents itself is the establishment of a joint, perhaps federal, Israel/Palestine with mutual right of return.

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