Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott

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Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott (Hebrew: חוק למניעת פגיעה במדינת ישראל באמצעות חרם, התשע"א-2011), also commonly known as the Boycott law, is an Israeli Anti-boycott law that was approved in the Knesset on 11 July 2011. The law has been widely criticised.

Legislative history[edit]

On 5 July 2010 a private bill was introduced in the Knesset, sponsored by the MKs Ze'ev Elkin and Dalia Itzik and a group of Knesset members from Likud, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism and the National Union. The proposal distinguished between three types of boycotts: a boycott imposed by a resident or citizen of Israel, a boycott imposed by a foreign resident or citizen, and a boycott imposed by a foreign political entity through a law enacted by the foreign political entity. The proposal stated that such a boycott is a civil wrong and a criminal offence punishable by a fine. After a discussion held on the matter in a Knesset committee the bill was changed so as to remove any criminality, i.e. it only provides for civil penalties, and to allow it to apply to anyone regardless of the nationality of the person who publicizes the boycott. The revised bill was published on 2 March 2011.

Opponents of the law argued that the law is a violation of the basic principle of freedom of expression. The supporters of the bill, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argued that the law does not violate freedom of expression but only prevents harmful measurements being taken against the State of Israel or its citizens, similar to two US laws (the 1977 amendments to the Export Administration Act and the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976[1]) which were enacted in the mid-1970s aimed at counteracting the participation of US citizens in other nations' economic boycotts or embargoes, which is contrary to Israel's version, and which determined that these are criminal offences punishable by tax exemption penalties.

The law was approved by the Knesset on 12 July 2011 with the support of 47 Knesset members, against 38 Knesset members the latter from the various opposition factions. Netanyahu and another 10 ministers, including Defence Minister Ehud Barak, were absent during the voting.

The law is in force from 13 July 2011 except for section 4 (withdrawing state benefits) which took effect on 11 October 2011.[2]

The law[edit]

The law states that individuals or organizations who publicize a call for an economic, cultural or academic boycott against a person or entity merely because of its affiliation to the State of Israel and/or to an Israeli institute and/or to a specific region under Israeli control, may be sued civilly, in tort, by a party claiming that it might be damaged by such a boycott.[2][3][4][5] The law also allows Israeli authorities to deny benefits from individuals or organizations - such as tax exemptions or participation in government contracts - if they have publicized a call to boycott and/or if they have obligated to participate in a boycott. The law is in force from 13 July 2011 except for section 4 (withdrawing state benefits) which will take effect on 11 October 2011.[2]

Reaction to the law[edit]

The law has been condemned as a violation of freedom of expression, "deeply undemocratic", widely criticised in the Israeli media and "three dozen" eminent law professors have described it as unconstitutional.[6][7] Nevertheless, a legal challenge to the Israel's High Court of Justice was mostly rejected by a majority of 6 versus 3 judges, the Court holding that the law was a legitimate and balanced measure to protect the State of Israel and its citizens from "political terrorism".[8] The Court held that calls for boycotts do not comply with the original objective of freedom of expression and therefore will not be protected by the court. However, Article 2(c) of the Law, allowing the imposition of punitive damages was held to be disproportionate and therefore declared void.

A number of Israeli civil rights groups have declared that they will legally challenge the law by petitioning the Israel Supreme Court. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel claims that the law is "unconstitutional and anti-democratic" and sets a bad precedent. Gush Shalom, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights, the Public Committee against Torture and the Coalition of Women for Peace - say that they will join legal challenges. On 12 July 2011 Gush Shalom was the first to lodge a petition against the law.[6] However, as noted above, all those challenges were rejected by the Supreme Court.

It should be noted that similar laws are to be found in other countries, such as the US (The Export Administration Act, 1979, which prohibits U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League or any other non-endorsed boycott) and Germany. In France, the Mayor of Seclin, Jean Claude Willem, was convicted and fined for announcing his intention to boycott Israeli products in the municipality. His conviction was upheld both by France's highest court and by the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR held that the conviction had not violated Mr. Willem's freedom of expression, because he "had not been convicted for his political opinions but for inciting the commission of a discriminatory and therefore punishable act."[9]

NGO Monitor has said that the law is not "the appropriate means to combat the BDS movement".[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]