No, the Anti-Boycott Law Really Isn’t OK
Some responses to your objections
I’d like to answer several questions raised, by readers here and elsewhere, about my recent denunciation of Israel’s new anti-boycott law.
1. Isn’t this bill exactly like the American Antiboycott Compliance, which prohibits companies from supporting the Arab League’s (now-deceased) boycott of Israel? Absolutely not. As Joseph Dana noted in +972, “the American document prohibits U.S. companies from ‘furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League and certain Muslim countries.’ Namely, the document targets countries or governments pushing a boycott of Israel. The Israeli boycott bill, on the other hand, targets civil society organizations and individuals.” What countries, then, have prohibitions that are actually similar to Israel’s new law? A Knesset committee was asked to investigate this matter. In a report dated January 30, 2011, it released its conclusions: Venezuela, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
2. What are you getting so worked up about? Israel’s supreme court will strike down this law. If only this were a sure thing. Because Israel lacks a constitution, striking down a law passed by the parliament is a tricky proposition. And the same members of Knesset behind the anti-boycott law are currently working on a sequel, which would give the Knesset the authority to reject Supreme Court nominees suspected of “a post-Zionist agenda.” The court should tread carefully here, as should those on the Israeli left who rely on it as the last bastion of liberty.
3. Surely the U.S. State Department was right to declare that the legislation is an internal Israeli matter? Nope, it was wrong (not for the first time). The reason the law is not an internal matter is that its lumping together of Israel and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank has the effect of erasing the Green Line, and with it the entire nuanced distinction—which is the basis of the Oslo Accords and any other pursuant peace talks—between Israel proper (which does include East Jersualem, annexed in 1980) and the occupied territories.
4. What does this have to do with me as an American Jew? As my friend, and soon-to-be Tablet Magazine blogger, Jeffrey Goldberg rightly argued, “There is wall-to-wall opposition among American Jews toward this ridiculous law, and this opposition needs to be communicated to the prime minister and to the Knesset in very clear ways, before Israel slips further down the slope away from democracy.” Contrast this with the fact that 47 percent of Israelis, according to a recent poll, support the bill (the same percentage that opposes it), and you’ll see that we have a problem. Those of us in America who support Israel can no longer afford to shrug their shoulders and say we don’t feel any right to interfere in the Jewish state’s affairs. When the Jewish state is in danger of hurling itself over an important democratic precipice, anyone who cares for it has to do whatever they can to stop it.
Unruly [Tablet Magazine]