The NIFAu and the Knesset’s Anti-Boycott Laws
The New Israel Fund Australia has issued a statement…demonstrating concern about Israel’s new anti-boycott laws.
The Fund has issued the follow statement:
The New Israel Fund (Australia) (NIFAu) shares the grave concern being expressed in Israel and throughout the Diaspora about the “Anti-Boycott law” that the Knesset passed last week, despite strong lobbying of MKs by NIF grantees and others.
The law, sponsored by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), has effect that a person who says anything publicly that is deemed to encourage a boycott commits a civil wrong, compensable if damage might reasonably have been expected to occur but without need to prove actual damage, and can lose the right to bid for government contracts.
NIF strongly opposes the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign and other delegitimisation of Israel. This law, however, though in terms applicable to all boycotts, is primarily intended to prevent boycotts of West Bank settlements and goods. It blurs the distinction between Israel proper and the occupied territories, and between unacceptable attacks on Israel and legitimate political activity by Israeli citizens, by selectively restricting the freedom of conscience and political expression of those many Israelis who believe that the settlements are illegal, illegitimate or do not serve the good of the State. For example, an artist who says publicly that conscience forbids him or her to perform in Ariel runs the risk of being sued for a large amount of money.
The law has been strongly criticised as undemocratic by many Jewish leaders, including the Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin, and the Leader of the Opposition, Tzipi Livni. Leading Israeli newspapers, including Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv, Israel Hayom and the Jerusalem Post, have published editorials or front page articles warning of the danger it signals to Israeli democracy. The Knesset’s own legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, and 32 Israeli university law professors have doubted its constitutionality. And the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), NIF’s flagship grantee, has filed a petition against the law with the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Israeli public debate has always been polarised over the issue of settlements and Israel’s presence in the West Bank and it is vital for Israel’s future that such political debate remain free and open. The Anti-Boycott law is part only of a raft of undemocratic legislative proposals that have been raised since this the 18th Knesset was formed. ACRI monitors such proposals and posts updates on its website.
All who want to ensure that Israel remains a democracy in substance as well as form need to keep themselves informed and to make their voices heard. One way to do that is to support NIFAu and NIF, one of the strongest voices advocating for democracy, equality and justice in Israel.