Will boycott law shock American liberals into some realization about the character of the only democracy in the Middle East?

Even the New York Times gets it; the Knesset’s passage of a law making boycott-advocacy punishable is an historic restriction on free speech. In the only democracy in the Middle East! Two friends’ responses– neither of them people who follow the issue:

–I all but had to revive my husband a few moments ago after he read about the boycott bill in Israel.  “It’s insane! Do they have a first amendment there?” he asked. And then: “Is there any reality-based community left in Israel?”

–What imaginable federal law in the U.S. circa 1962 prohibiting interference
with Southern segregation might have been analogous to the Israeli boycott law?
What effect would the passage and the enforcement of such a law have had on the history of the American civil rights movement whose triumph we celebrate?

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 48 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. James says:

    just goes to show you how laws are made by those in power to hold onto power… in a corrupt or uncivilized nation, corruption and uncivilized ideology get written into the system via laws…

  2. lysias says:

    If any country is the only democracy in the Middle East, that country is now Turkey.

    • Taxi says:

      Don’t forget the democratic republic of Lebanon. Them ‘extremist’ democrats north of israel.

    • eee says:

      Right, Turkey imprisons the most journalists in the world.
      link to freemedia.at

      • annie says:

        eee, do you know how many journalists died in iraq. remember the guy who broke the story about the black and decker death squads with american guns and trucks?. an american sniper shot him thru the head the next morning. bet he’d rather be in a turkish jail right now. remember when we bombed AJ in kabul. killed that younge journalist with the wife and young daughter? and remember the video of the reuters photographers the helicopter hunted down?(wikileaks). sometimes we don’t imprison the ones we don’t like, we just take them out. journalists can be very dangerous for those who consider truth the enemy.

  3. Chu says:

    “Fascists advocate the creation of a totalitarian single-party state that seeks the mass mobilization of a nation through indoctrination, physical education, and family policy including eugenics. Fascists seek to purge forces, ideas, and systems deemed to be the cause of decadence and degeneration and produce their nation’s rebirth based on commitment to the national community based on organic unity where individuals are bound together by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood. Fascists believe that a nation requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong. Fascist governments forbid and suppress opposition to the state.”

  4. American says:

    Well, the US Israeli congress went further than Isr a long time ago. Ribicoff made it illegal for any US company or individual to boycott Israel.

    See…Parts 760 and 764 of Title 15, as of the 1977 amendments to the Export Administration Act and the Ribicoff Amendment to the 1976 Tax Reform Act.

    Which resulted in it being enforced by the US Dept of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

    link to bis.doc.gov

    Antiboycott Compliance
    The Bureau is charged with administering and enforcing the Antiboycott Laws under the Export Administration Act. Those laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott. Compliance with such requests may be prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and may be reportable to the Bureau.
    Boycott Alert
    U.S. companies continue to report receiving requests to engage in activities that further or support the boycott of Israel. U.S. companies may receive similar requests in the future. If you have questions, please call (202) 482-2381 and ask for the Duty Officer or you may contact us by email.

    • annie says:

      american, i urge you to follow this link and check the source directly. there’s a big difference between the US law and the one israel just passed.

      • American says:

        Yes I know, I saw that.
        But the US law actually ‘forbids’ any US company from boycotting Israel. There are been two companies in the US, to my knowledge so far, that have fined for refusing to do business with an Israeli company.
        My only point was that this just shows once again the US congress running inteference for Israel and dictating to private US business and individuals where it concerns Israel.
        The US hasn’t banned ‘calls for boycotts”…yet…who knows when they go that far…..but they have banned ‘actions’ by private concerns.

        • Hostage says:

          the US law actually ‘forbids’ any US company from boycotting Israel.

          Not at all. It prohibits companies from violating US neutrality by joining a specific boycott against Israel which is operated by a group of other States. Nothing prevents US companies from boycotting Israel on the basis of their own principled decisions or from supporting non-state “civil society” boycott movements. The statute in question is a favorite topic of hasbara disinformation.

        • American says:

          See the case below.

      • VR says:

        Annie, that is really cogent point, the only other thing that has to be considered is the cumulative impact of other pro-Zionist activity in Washington. As an example, there is now an entire branch against what is said to be antisemitism, in the interpretation of antisemitism is anything done against Israel. So Washington has taken the Zionist definition of antisemitism, and therefore takes anything which opposes the Israeli agenda as antisemitism – as it has been coined the so-called “new” antisemitism.

        Zionists have positioned themselves in the classic places where boycott has historically arisen, educational institutions (where documentation on civil rights has written the Zionist definition of antisemitism, thereby confounding the actions against Israeli colonial settler state activity such as boycott as antisemitic while using the language of civil rights, or even speaking against Israeli activities), labor, racial organizations, and various groups which have billed themselves as “liberal” (except Palestine), all of the forms of major media (thereby retarding the engine of boycott), etc.

        So the point is that one does not have to place it per se in “law,” but many supporting factors can contribute to the failure of a boycott effort. It is incumbent on us to switch to other sourcing which can be used for boycott while we keep banging on the traditional doors.

  5. annie says:

    Mr. Elkin, the sponsor of the legislation, said that its principal importance was “the fact that the calls to boycott the State of Israel increasingly have come from within our own midst, and that makes it hard to wage a battle against a boycott in the world.

    yep, they know it’s a big time threat.

  6. seafoid says:

    There is no point in waiting for American liberals en masse to wake up . What have they ever done for the Palestinians?

    The American moment has passed, and good riddance.

    link to nybooks.com

    “A Mediterranean variant of Gandhian-style mass protest has by now taken root among Palestinian communities in several parts of the West Bank: Ma’asara, Nabi Saleh, Dir Kadis, Na’alin, and Bil’in, to mention only a few. There is by now a clear awareness among many that non-violent resistance is far more likely to be effective against the Israeli occupation than violence; and these days the humane principles of Gandhi and Martin Luther King are frequently and clearly articulated in Arabic by grass-roots Palestinian leaders

    An eloquent statement of the philosophy and method was delivered on June 5 by Bassem al-Tamimi, one of the leaders of the Nabi Saleh protests, at his trial at an Israeli military court for organizing demonstrations. Al-Tamimi’s text will, I am sure, someday be taught in schools, maybe even in Israel; it is remarkably reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement to a now forgotten British judge in Ahmedabad in 1922, when the judge sentenced him to jail for six years.

    Non-violent resistance is also the official policy of the Palestinian government in Ramallah. Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister, spoke in the village of Bil’in on June 24th, where the non-violent protest sustained by the villagers for over seven years against the appropriation of village lands by the Separation Barrier was finally crowned with some success (the Army has begun to move the Separation Barrier at Bil’in slightly to the west, in partial compliance with an Israeli Supreme Court Ruling from 2007. The village will, however, still lose about a third of its lands to the Barrier): “The results of popular resistance may be slow,” Fayyad said,

    but they are guaranteed, and the whole world is with us. This [the success of popular resistance] is something that is inevitable. It’s not over by any stretch of the imagination – this is just the beginning, but it’s a good beginning. It took a long time…[The moving of the Wall] underscores the immense power of nonviolence.

    lands annexed to Israel in 1967, has been demoralized and more or less neutralized politically for the last several years; what we are seeing today is an attempt on the part of the some 300,000 Palestinians who live there to reclaim the political weight that should naturally be theirs. The fact that this is happening in close cooperation with young Israelis from the left is a promising development. For those that have been mobilized, there is clearly a firm common ground. The Solidarity website states unequivocally: “There is no choice for anyone advocating an end to Israeli control over the Palestinians other than supporting the only realistic way left to achieve this goal: recognition of an independent Palestinian state.”

    • Hostage says:

      “There is no choice for anyone advocating an end to Israeli control over the Palestinians other than supporting the only realistic way left to achieve this goal: recognition of an independent Palestinian state.”

      Not really. It’s about equal human and humanitarian rights, not the numbers of abstract legal or political entities that result from ending the occupation. Abbas has stated that if the UN refuses to recognize a Palestinian State he will dissolve the PA and demand equal rights. In fact, that’s exactly what Fayyad said during the Bilin demonstration, but the NYR Blog fails to mention that fact. Fayyad said: “either we achieve freedom from the Israeli occupation or we will demand instant Israeli citizenship, including the right to vote.”

  7. Since the Knessett’s actions wil have no effect on the willingness of the USA politico class to change it’s mind about it’s purblind support of Guess Who, I suggest that we all at least enjoy the prospect of Guess Who continuing to shoot itself in the foot.

    And with the Rupe Murdoch scandal in full bloom, it’s a good day for schadenfreude. A day without bad press for Israel is like a day without sunshine

    • eee says:

      So are you just pro-Palestinian and not anti-Israel? Doesn’t seem so to me.

      • Charon says:

        During WWII, Americans were anti-Japan. After Japan surrendered, the leadership (sans Emperor) were put on trial and either imprisoned or executed.

        The Japanese people believed the Imperial family were physical gods of the Shinto religion. When Emperor Hirohito toured Japan after the war, many people were unconvinced. They would not believe that their God was a mortal. Many committed suicide. “Democracy” was “Instilled” by the West and Japan is everybody’s best buds these days.

        So what’s wrong with being anti-Israel? It seems you people go out of your way to try to point this out. Like as if anti-Israel is a bad thing or against the grain. As if it means anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. It does not.

        Israel is run by corrupt leaders. Israel has an illegal expansionist policy. Israel gets away with war crimes. Israel lies all the time, especially about their own history and being a victim. Israel is guilty of Apartheid. Israel is guilty of ethnic cleansing. Israel is guilty of illegal occupation and demoralizing an entire people. If these criminals are not punished, a genocide of the indigenous Palestinians is inevitable.

        The list of crimes is long. But most importantly, and this law only proves it to be true – Israel is a fascist state. Zionism is a fascist ideology.

        So being anti-Israel is acceptable and rational. It is a corrupt nation run by criminals with a history founded by criminals. It came to being with bribes/blackmail. The founders were all criminals. Especially symbolic founder Theodor Herzl and first PM David Ben-Gurion. Lehi and Irgun members and leaders became Israeli government members and leaders. These terrorist groups are honored to this day by Israel. Mossad resorts to illegal assassination and terrorism to accomplish their goals.

        The criminals can be identified by name, by crime, and thrown in jail. And like in Japan, eventually the people will just have to accept that their beliefs are rooted in lies. If they don’t, then they will just wind up leaving (many already have recently obtained dual citizenship fearing for when this day arrives). If they resist and resort to crimes, they will be thrown in prison. Israel will still exist even in a one-state solution and saying you are Anti-Israel does not mean what you want it to.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        Why is free speech illegal in Israel, eee?

  8. Kate says:

    Haaretz 12 July — The U.S. State Department responded Tuesday to the new anti-boycott law passed in Israel, saying that the freedom to organize and protest is a democratic value Israel and the U.S. have long shared … When asked to comment on the anti-boycott law, the U.S. State Department said the law was an “Israeli internal matter” but also hinted its criticism by pointing out the right to peaceful protest in democratic countries …The Anti-Defamation League also expressed its criticism regarding the new law on Tuesday, saying that despite its opposition of boycotts of Israel, it is concerned the new law impinges on the “basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.” “To legally stifle calls to action – however abhorrent and detrimental they might be – is a disservice to Israeli society,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement.

    FOXMAN? Israel’s really put its foot in it this time

    link to haaretz.com

    • Charon says:

      Yep, expect to see a lot more of this. Nobody likes being on a losing team. That’s why in professional sports, players on poor teams often request to be traded or sign with better ones in the off season.

      When you can no longer cover up the crime, it’s best to distance yourself from the criminals. It buys some time before people find out you’re in on it

  9. eee says:

    The law will be challenged in the Israeli supreme court. Until they issue a ruling, you should withhold judgement.

    • Mooser says:

      “The law will be challenged in the Israeli supreme court. Until they issue a ruling, you should withhold judgement.”

      “eee” is an expert in international law!

    • mig says:

      Israeli court ? You mean that court which gives ruling that nobody in Israel follows.

    • Shingo says:

      The law will be challenged in the Israeli supreme court.

      So was the ban on foreign juoranilsts entering Gaza during Cast Lead. The ruling declared that the IDF had no authority to stop them entering, but they ignored the ruling and did it anyway.

      • Elliot says:

        eee –
        Shingo gave you one of several overwhelming responses to you attempt to deflect attention away from the State of Israel’s shameful muzzling of its own citizens.

        The Israeli Supreme Court does not have the same stature as the U.S. Supreme Court. In the State of Israel, the Knesset has power over the judiciary in appointing new judges. The State of Israel has no constitution which makes a constitutional ruling on the illegality of a Knesset law a really, tricky thing to accomplish.

        • eee says:

          Elliot,

          “The State of Israel has no constitution which makes a constitutional ruling on the illegality of a Knesset law a really, tricky thing to accomplish.”

          Not really, there are “foundation laws” in Israel and the Israeli supreme court has struck down quite a few laws.

          As for the stature of the Israeli supreme court, its rulings are never politicized like the 2000 Florida election decision of the US supreme court. The Knesset does not have power over the appointment of new judges:
          “Supreme Court Justices, as well as all other judges, are appointed by the President of the State upon the nomination of “the Judges’ Nominations Committee”. The Nominations Committee is composed of nine members: three Justices of the Supreme Court (including the President of the Court among them), two Ministers (one of them being the Minister of Justice), two Members of the Knesset and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. The Minister of Justice is the chairperson of the Committee. In other words, a modified Missouri Plan.
          The three organs of state—the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government—as well as the bar association are represented in the Judges’ Nominations Committee. Thus, the shaping of the judicial body, through the manner of judicial appointment, is carried out by all the authorities together.”

          link to en.wikipedia.org

        • Elliot says:

          eee –

          Thank you for your research confirming my post that the Knesset has power over the election of judges in Israel.

          On Monday the Knesset demonstrated to the world what a shameful institution it has become.

        • Hostage says:

          Freedom of speech isn’t specifically mentioned or entrenched in either the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty or the Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel. The Knesset is a sitting constitutional assembly and it enjoys parliamentary supremacy. If it wishes to overrule the Court it can simply amend the Basic Law. It can also adopt a law that violates rights under the Basic Law, so long as it is “befitting the values of the State of Israel”, enacted for “a proper purpose”, and to “an extent no greater than is required”.

          As for the stature of the Israeli supreme court, its rulings are never politicized

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You mean like the time it ruled that the Ministry of Interior has to recognize non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism? …Or the time it ruled that the Defense Minister can’t authorize wildcat settlements on the basis of “military necessity” after the fact? …Or the time it ordered the Defense Minister to remove the illegal outposts? How about the shit storm when Olmert appointed Daniel Friedmann as justice minister because he said “the judicial appointment system leads to an ideological uniformity that is unhealthy and undemocratic” – and because he questioned “judicial activism” and the “judicial review practices of the Supreme Court”?

        • Hostage says:

          Coalition chair MK Ze’ev Elkin and MK Yariv Levin proposed Wednesday a bill allowing the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to veto Supreme Court appointments.
          . . .
          “This law will prevent the method in which Supreme Court judges appoint their friends to the bench, and will prevent judges with post-Zionist agendas from being appointed.”

          link to israelnationalnews.com

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Phase 1:
      “They’ll NEVER pass this law.”

      Phase 2:
      “The Supreme Court in Israel will strike this down and the government will actually do as the Supreme Court states. Just wait and see.”

      Phase 3:
      “Hamas! Jihad! Hudna!!!!”

    • VR says:

      Judgement of the laws end might be premature, but its creation is not in question eee. These are the elected representatives of Israel, and if they have passed a law like this the Supreme Court may do as it wills, but it cannot expunge the act and who the participants were, nor their sentiments and design in its creation.

      I would say that the Supreme Courts activity will be influenced by international reaction, because if it is not despised by the world community it will stand. The Supreme Court has been little more than a rubber stamp of what is allowable (not unlike its US counterpart), so your faith in its record is questionable. The Supreme Court is part of the thin veneer of democracy in Israel, not totally unlike other so-called “democracies,” but true of Israel nonetheless.

  10. Lars says:

    @ American:
    I think the relevant portion of the passage you cited is: “Those laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott.”
    That is, it is illegal for US companies to boycott Israel if they are doing so in order to comply with Arab League requests. It does not forbid US companies to boycott Israel for their own reasons (i.e. shareholder pressure, etc.)
    @eee: Correct. This law will in all likelihood be overturned by the Supreme Court, as similar laws always have in the past. This makes me suspect that the backers of this law are actually supporting this, not because they expect it to survive an appeal before the Supreme Court, but to build popular opposition to the SC on the grounds that it is ‘antidemocratic,’ that is, a supporter of minority and free-speech concerns as opposed to majoritarian (antidemocratic) concerns, with the ultimate goal of putting on the SC jurists who are more reliably authoritarian and antidemocratic.

    • American says:

      I should have been clearer but was lazy.

      I can’t find the case I was looking for in which a US company was being charged by the BIS of not carrying a line of Israeli products. The Israeli company claimed it was because of discrimination/boycott of Israel on the part of the US company, the US company said it was because they just weren’t interested in carrying what the Israeli company was trying to sell them. It hadn’t been settled when I was reading about it and don’t know how it turned out.

      But here are two others along the line of what you are saying:

      “The US government has imposed a civil penalty on a Pennsylvania-based firm after one of its overseas subsidiaries repeatedly violated American legal restrictions regarding the Arab boycott of Israel. In a settlement announced last month, Colorcon, Inc., a century-old manufacturer of inks and coatings for the food and pharmaceutical industries, agreed to pay $39,000 in fines to settle charges leveled against it by the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The BIS, which oversees enforcement of US antiboycott regulations, had alleged that Colorcon’s wholly-owned subsidiary in the United Kingdom had committed 21 violations of the law between 2001 and 2005 in a series of dealings with Syria. These included providing written assurances to the Syrians that the company’s products did not contain materials manufactured in Israel, as well as an undertaking that Colorcon would comply with Damascus’s boycott of Israel.

      And…

      “Cook Composites and Polymers Co. has agreed to pay a $6,000 fine to settle charges that it violated Commerce Department regulations aimed at countering the Arab boycott of Israel.

      The department’s Bureau of Industry and Security had charged that, in response to a request from a customer in Bahrain, Cook had furnished information stating that the goods being shipped were not of Israeli origin and did not contain Israeli materials.

      The bureau also charged that Cook had failed to report its receipt of the request.

      Cook, of North Kansas City, neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to pay the $6,000 civil penalty.

      The anti-boycott provisions bar U.S. companies from providing information about their business relationships with Israel. They also require that receipt of boycott requests be reported to the Bureau of Industry and Security, formerly known as the Bureau of Export Administration.

      I don’t approve of this in any way. It is the US dictating to private business that they must ‘report’ anyone who requires that whatever they are purchasing from said company not have Israeli material in the product–if the products being purchased don’t have Israeli materials in them, they can’t even verify that fact. So if I as a merchant or manufacture get order from a customer for items and am not allowed to even verify that what they wish to purchase doesn’t not contain Israeli materials I lose that sale and customer.
      It’s more zio created legal restrictions on US copmpanies for Israel’s benefit.

  11. link to haaretz.com

    The U.S. State Department responded Tuesday to the new anti-boycott law passed in Israel, saying that the freedom to organize and protest is a democratic value Israel and the U.S. have long shared.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      So are you pushing for sanctions against Israel the way you push for sanctions against Hamas, Syria and Iran for suppressing free speech?

  12. stevieb says:

    Richard – occupation, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity will always be fought. And in the end, those fighting against these ALWAYS win.

    Something to remember…

  13. Elliot says:

    I’m on a mission to find the silver lining in all this.
    Here goes:
    In South Africa, before the Apartheid laws were enacted, the supposed inferiority of Black people was so self-evident that it did not need to be names.
    The Apartheid laws allowed people to name the racism and fight it.
    Israel is declaring itself to being anti-democratic and exposing the lie in “Jewish and democratic.” This makes our work that much easier.

  14. Citizen says:

    When Americans, including American rabbis, wake up, they will see the question flowering is, can an American be a Zionist? link to forward.com

  15. talknic says:

    “Will boycott law shock American liberals into some realization about the character of the only democracy in the Middle East?”

    No. The shockwaves will likely have dissipated in a couple of weeks.

    Come September, when Deuteronomy 20:15 should be relegated to the dustbin, we will really see what state the Jewish State is in.

    When a juvenile delinquent hasn’t been shown the line, they don’t know when to stop. The little red heifer might just kick the sh*t outta the china shoppe while it has Uncle Sam’s veto in one pocket and nukies in the other. Who the f*&^ is gonna stop ‘em?

    Then maybe the US constituency will wake up to what the US has helped create

    • Taxi says:

      You can’t mention Deuteronomy 20:15 without mentioning 20:16 too:

      Deuteronomy 20:15-16/New International Version (NIV)

      15- This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

      16- However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you.

  16. RE: “It’s insane! Do they have a first amendment there?” he asked.

    MY COMMENT: In order to have amendments, one first needs to have a constitution. Israel does not. That’s a big part of the problem.
    The ‘Basic Laws’ just don’t cut it!