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Israel to discuss bill that would see BDS activists facing jail

October 19, 2018 at 12:13 pm

BDS protesters [Heri Rakotomalala/Flickr]

Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation “will discuss a bill on Sunday that would subject activists convicted of promoting a boycott of Israel to prison terms of up to seven years”.

As reported by Haaretz, the bill would apply to anyone who works to “undermine Israel’s interests, its relations with any other country, organisation or institution … or any interest they have in Israel”.

The bill’s explanatory notes state that the legislation is primarily meant “to apply to anyone who plays an active role in a movement that boycotts Israel or its products”.

“It’s possible to criticise Israel,” the explanatory notes say, continuing: “But anyone who lends a hand to boycotts that harm Israel economically or harm it in another way, like academic boycotts, must be called to account for it. That is the difference between criticism, which is legitimate, and damage that’s a thuggish act in and of itself (boycotts) and harms Israel and its citizens”.

The bill is sponsored by MK Anat Berko (Likud), and co-sponsored by several other MKs from Likud, Kulanu and the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Read: Israel orders BDS activists to pay $12,000 damages over cancelled concert

Haaretz notes that Berko’s aides say “the law’s vague language, which doesn’t specify which Israeli interests must be protected, would enable the law to be applied not just to boycotts of Israel as a whole, but also to boycotts of the settlements or settlement products.”

Under existing law, the paper explains, “a person can be jailed for trying to harm Israel only if a crime was committed in the process. Such a person would face a sentence of up to 10 years, or even life imprisonment if the crime committed were a serious one.”

The new bill, however, “would expand the prohibition such that working to harm Israel’s interests or its international relations would be a crime even if no other crime were committed in the process.”