The Israeli Knesset is Monday set to vote on a bill that will make illegal the boycott of Israeli goods, including Israeli settlement goods, in the state of Israel. The “Boycott Bill” is due to undergo a second and third vote Monday which would see it passed into law.The Knesset is Monday expected to vote on the controversial “Boycott Bill” that would allow any company targeted for boycott take legal proceedings against the boycotter. The bill would also make it illegal for the government to trade with any company who boycotts Israeli settlement goods.
The bill has been subject to huge opposition both within Israeli and Palestinian society as undermining free speech and giving immunity to Israeli settlements.
Israeli peace group, Gush Shalom, have stated that ‘the Boycott Law would, if indeed passed by the majority, constitute a black mark of infamy on Israel’s book of laws. This bill has two aspects, each worse than the other. It is a law for armor-plating the settlements, turning them into a sacred and immune cow, since anyone who dares to criticize it will pay dearly – quite literally. In addition, this is a law for silencing voices and destroying the Freedom of Expression – on one side only of the political spectrum.’
Opponents argue the law is deliberately vague, failing to define what advocating for or boycotting Israeli goods or services entails. MK Yohanan Plesner of the Israeli Kadima Party, in an interview with the JPost, stated that a post on Facebook risked becoming a crime in the event of the bill passing. Plesner went on to say the bill was proposed by “a lobby of settlers in the Knesset.”
Groups also point to open boycotts against Palestinian labour, businesses and tenants, which will not be challenged by the bill, in arguing the boycott is inherently biased against Palestinians.
The bill will be voted on as members of the Middle East Quartet are meeting to deliver a statement on a way out of the current impasse in the stalled Israeli Palestinian peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had considered delaying the vote in light of negative publicity that might arise from a Quartet statement calling for peace talks based on 1967 borders but ultimately decided to let the vote go ahead.
PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Yasser Abd Rabbo, talking to Israeli media group YNet, has warned that if the bill passes ‘the content of an impending Quartet announcement regarding the possible renewal of negotiations will become irrelevant.’ Rabbo claimed the bill would make Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians have demanded an end to as essential to continuing peace talks, into “sacred places”.
Today many Israeli and international groups and individuals have raised the call for a boycott of Israeli or settlement goods. The bill would make illegal the artists boycott of the cultural centre of Israel as well as the guarantee made by Israeli construction companies working on the new Palestinian city of Rawabi not to use settlement material. It would also make illegal Israeli academic boycotts of settlement academic institutions.
All goods coming from settlements in the West Bank must now be marked as such in the EU, giving an access of information to European consumers that Israeli consumers would no longer enjoy with the new legislation
The Boycott Divest and Sanction movement against Israeli policies of occupation and repression of Palestinian has gained momentum in recent years. Beginning in 2005 it has called on the boycott of Israeli goods, the disinvestment from companies who benefit from the undermining of Palestinian rights and the sanction of Israel in international trade and diplomatic forums. The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.