On July 11, the Knesset passed the “Bill for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Through Boycott – 2011” in a 47 to 38 vote.1
While this critical political development has been unsurprisingly ignored in most of the mainstream media, a number of prominent online news sources have pointed to the serious implications such legislation holds for what remains of the already grievous state of democratic freedom in Israeli civil society. Absent from much of this analysis however is the broader and more fundamental question:
Does the Israeli government even want peace?
I ask this question because ultimately, the direct consequences of the “Anti-Boycott Bill” represent a larger and more frightening trend in Israeli politics - one that aims to belligerently muzzle the Israeli left on issues pertaining to the Palestinian question. Of course the “left” in Israel stands as a shrinking, yet diverse and non-homogenous segment of Israeli politics. Within it however, are a number of progressives and activists whose demands for accountability and justice within their government are inaudible behind the walls of the Knesset. In fact, their demands are drowned out – drowned out by an emerging radical right in Israel, championed by MK Avidgor Lieberman and his party, Yisrael Beitenu – Israel is Our Home.
The “Anti-Boycott Bill” implies far more than the obvious curtailment of basic civil liberties in Israel. It very clearly illustrates that the Knesset and the Israeli government view non-violent resistance to the Occupation as criminal. Their message to Palestinians rings clear: accept our control over your land and water, accept restrictions on your freedom of movement, accept the denial of your right to education, accept the arbitrary imprisonment of your family members, accept the destruction of your homes and villages.
And do not resist - even peacefully. If you do, you can face the state in an Israeli court.
The Israeli government will not only continue to intractably support the illegal occupation, annexation, and seizure of Palestinian land – but it will force both citizens and non-citizens within its borders to look on in silence.
Peace is not in the cards for the Israeli government. It has not been for a long time. The Anti-Boycott Bill is one of many pieces of legislation presented to the Knesset in recent years that further illustrates the state’s intransigent stance towards the Palestinian people’s basic rights. If the ability to non-violently resist such policies is now illegal in the State of Israel – what peace does the Israeli government speak of?
Rena Zuabi holds a BA in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from UC San Diego. Her research focuses on political and legal geography in Israel/Palestine.