Knesset Committee outdoes itself with ‘bill to prevent harm to the state of Israel through boycotts’

Israel/Palestine
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What will those modern-day McCarthys in the Israeli Knesset think up next?

By now we’ve all become accustomed to the creepy, liberty-limiting laws emerging every few months or so from the right-wing (though hardly always right-wing) precincts of the Israeli Knesset. I’m thinking, of course, of the Nakba law, the Loyalty Oath law, the law requiring NGO’s to declare their sources of funding, and so on and so on and so on. But the last few weeks have seen a flurry of anti-Democratic efforts that have been impressive even by the current Knesset’s standards. There was the bill proposed earlier this month by four right-wing members of Knesset that would give the government the power to disband existing NGOs and refuse to register new ones if they “deny the Jewish character of the State” – a clear jab at the country’s Arab population. More recently, on Sunday, two proposals were presented to the Ministerial Legislation Committee, each designed to limit the amount of money “political” NGOs can receive from foreign entities – and foreign entities, by the way, include the United Nations and the European Union.

Now there is “The Bill to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel Through Boycotts.” That’s right, a law that would make it a civil violation to call publicly for a boycott of the State of Israel.

The latest version of this law, which is a flagrant strike at democracy, free speech, and the right to resist, passed the Knesset’s farcically-named Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on Monday. This means the bill has a strong chance of becoming law soon. The bill targets “anyone who publishes a public call for a boycott of the State of Israel” and threatens them with a fine to be determined by the courts. In addition, the bill takes direct aim at NGOs that support boycotts by threatening to retract or deny their tax exempt status.

Yossi Gurvitz at +972 has a disturbing analysis of how the bill will work, whom it will target, and what it sets out to do. As the title of his article suggests, it is nothing less than “a way to persecute the Israeli left.”

Meanwhile, the website for Coalition of Women for Peace, which has been leading a campaign against the bill called “Right to Resist,” describes the bill as “one of the most dangerous anti-democratic laws promoted in this current Knesset.” It continues: “It criminalizes non-violent, legal and legitimate means to promote social and political aims that are protected in civil rights of freedom of expression, opinion and assembly.”

It’s hard to imagine how a bill like this could be legal, but legality, like morality, doesn’t seem to bother the bill’s supporters much. According to the Coalition of Women for Peace, Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who chairs the Knesset committee that passed the law, responded to a question by Palestinian MK Taleb Assana suggesting the bill breaches international law with the verbal equivalent of a shrug. “International law is none of my interest,” he apparently said.

Herewith, a translation of the “The Bill to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel Through Boycotts”:

Bill for prevention of damage to the State of Israel through boycott – 2011

Definition

1. In this law, “boycott of the State of Israel” – deliberate avoidance of economic, cultural or academic ties with a person or other party, solely for reason of his/her/its relation to the state of Israel, to any of its institutions or to any area under its control, which could cause them economic, cultural or academic harm.

Boycott – a civil wrong

2. (a) Anyone who publishes a public call for a boycott of the state of Israel, and its content and circumstances may reasonably be expected to lead to a boycott, and the publisher is aware of this possibility – is committing a civil wrong and the law of Tort [new version] shall apply to him/her.

(b) Regarding Section 62a of the law of Tort [new version] causing breach of contract by calling for a boycott of the state of Israel shall not be seen as sufficient justification.

(c ) If a court finds that a wrong has been committed under this law, it shall be permitted to order the party committing the wrong to pay compensation independently of actual damage done (exemplary damage). When determining the sum of compensation the court shall take into account the circumstances of the wrong, its severity and its scope.

Regulations regarding restrictions on participation in a tender

3. The Minister of Finance is permitted, pending authorization by the Constitutional Committee of the Knesset, to set regulations regarding restrictions on participation in a public tender, due to undertakings made by a party making an offer to participate in a boycott of the state of Israel, including undertakings not to purchase products or services produced or provided in the state of Israel, in any of its institutions or in an area under its control.

Regulations regarding withholding of benefits

4. (a) The Minister of Finance, with the agreement of the Minister of Justice, is permitted to decide with regard to any party who knowingly publishes a public call to impose a boycott on the State of Israel or regarding any party who agreed to participate in a boycott [in special cases], that –

(1) The party shall not be considered a public institution (charity) for purposes of Section 9(2) of the Income Tax Ordinance;

(2) The party shall not be eligible to receive funding from the council for regulation of sports gambling according to Section 9 of the law for regulation of sports gambling 1967;

(3) The party shall not be considered a public institution (charity) for purposes of receiving support according to Section 3a of the Budget procedures law 1985;

(4) The provisions of the state guarantees law 1958 shall not apply to the party;

(5) The party shall not be eligible for benefits under the law for promotion of capital investments 1959 and under the law for promotion of research, development and industry 1984.

(b) The enforcement of the authority of the Minister of Finance in accordance with subsection (a)(2) shall be done with the agreement of the Minister of Sport, and the enforcement of his authority in accordance with subsection (a)(3) shall be done with the agreement of the Minister appointed by the government to be responsible for the budget section, as defined in para (2) of the definition ‘responsible for the budget section’ in the Budget law 1985. The enforcement of his authority in accordance with subsection (a)(5) shall be done with the agreement of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Employment.

Implementation

4[sic]. The Minister of Justice is appointed to implement this law.

About Lizzy Ratner

Lizzy Ratner is a journalist in New York City. She is a co-editor with Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss of The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.

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