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Israel law targeting those who back boycott advances in the Knesset

Image of a mock wall representing the apartheid wall in the West Bank during Israel Apartheid Week by the student-led BDS campaign at the University of Manchester on 3 March 2017 [BDS Campaign University of Manchester/Facebook]
A mock apartheid wall by the student-led BDS campaign at the University of Manchester on 3 March 2017 [BDS Campaign University of Manchester/Facebook]

New Israeli legislation that “would allow anyone harmed by calls to boycott Israel to sue without proof of damages” passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset yesterday.

The proposal, drafted by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) as an amendment to the Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel – 2017, was approved by 60 lawmakers with 40 opposed.

According to the bill, while someone who makes a one-time call for a boycott of Israel cannot be sued, in cases “involving repeated calls for an economic, cultural or academic boycott”, compensation can be sought of up to 100,000 shekels ($28,460), even “where damages are not proven”.

Meanwhile, “in cases in which the court determines that the boycott call is an injustice committed in an organized, systematic fashion, it can award compensation of up to 500,000 shekels [$142,300]”.

The bill’s explanatory portion states: “The increasing activity around the world and within Israel of the BDS movement, whose goal is to boycott, divest and sanction the State of Israel and its citizens, constitutes great harm, and it is the moral duty of the legislator to restrain and deter those seeking to aid it.”

As reported by Haaretz, “the amendment is designed to replace a section in the original boycott law that the High Court of Justice threw out two years ago.”

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“In April 2015, four years after the law’s enactment, an expanded panel of nine justices declined to throw out the whole law. But the justices ruled that for compensation to be awarded without proof of damages, maximum compensation had to be limited.”

During the debate, bill sponsor MK Kisch claimed that “anti-Semitism has changed its course and is now trying to hurt us with calls for boycotts, labelling [of settlement produce] and more.”

“Regretfully, in this House there are also those who support BDS. The purpose of the law is simple – to prevent deliberate harm and to protect the economic security of the State of Israel.”

#BDS

Kisch claimed that the bill would affect groups including Who Profits, founding by the Coalition of Women for Peace, and Boycott from Within. He also mentioned Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS Movement.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, whose purview includes fighting the BDS campaign, said the bill sends a “clear message” that economic pressure sought by BDS advocates “can be turned back against them”.

Erdan noted that his ministry had also promoted other bills and resolutions to frustrate boycott efforts, such as barring activists from entering Israel. “It has borne results,” he said.

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