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No, the Anti-Boycott Law Really Isn’t OK

Some responses to your objections

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The cultural center in Ariel that started it all.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

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]

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Dani Levi says:

Please do not quote Joseph Dana, he is working with Ali Abunimah and Philipp Weiss. Give us a break, or does Tablet intend to seek advice from rabid anti-Zionists in the future?

If you can’t beat’em on the facts, beat’em on the associations. Right, Dani?

Jordan says:

On point #1: What’s the moral difference between a boycott by a country and a boycott by a person or organization? Why is it OK to oppose one but a threat to democracy to oppose the other?

On point #3: You write, “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.” Are you equally outraged by the thousands of other things the Israeli government does that “erase” the Green Line, such as:
a. Starting “summer time” on the same day in both Israel and the settlements
b. Having the same age of conscription into the army in Israel and the settlements
c. Administering the same “bagrut” exams in Israel and the settlements?

Reuvain says:

OY VeY there might be public debate over nominations to the Israeli Supreme Court. Right now a closed committee called the “Judges Nominations Committee” composed of nine members: three Justices of the Supreme Court (including the President of the Court among them), two Ministers (one of them being the Minister of Justice), two Members of the Knesset and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. The Minister of Justice is the chairperson of the Committee.

You need seven votes to get in. There is no public debate like in the US. A private committee, with three sitting members of the court are involved in a self selection process. That’s why the court is so titled to the left. If you don’t fit the liberal philosophy of the court you don’t get in.

At least here in the US we can vote for senators with the understanding that they will have a say in the selection of justices.

Funny how the left loves democracy when it can stack the court.

jerome says:

All you Jews (and are you really Jewish??) in the Diaspora who dare criticize Israel: Don’t you know Israel can do NO WRONG (especially when run by Netanyahu and Lieberman)?

If the comments about Israel in Tablet and other sites is any indication, committment for Israel neccessarily means committment to Likud and the creep Lieberman. If you question current government policies you are accused of being a self-hating jew, a nazi, a terrorist sympathizer, or naive. There is a dearth of liberal Zionist responses to such calumny. My fear is that liberals are turning away in disgust and are alienated by current affairs and the hateful rhetoric and discourse that is prevalent on the Web. Israel seems to becoming a right wingers pet issue, which, is very dangerous for Israel who needs all the supporters it can get.

Ezekiel says:

The 4 points are more or less legitimate. However, the most important issue is left out. It’s hardly deniable that the supposed Human Rights organizations targeted by this law are not Human Rights organizations at all, but are rather anti-Israel political machines, which are, literally, in the same boat with Hamas. Since Israel is small and vulnerable to boycotts, it is relatively easy to subvert its democracy with funding from antagonistic sources from abroad, and to use its liberal-democratic law as a tool against the state. The options that the state of Israel has in combating this abuse and corruption are limited. In the US, a vast shift against human rights and liberties took place after 9-11, yet no one thought that the American Democracy is about to become a dictatorship. When it comes to Israel, however, the condemnations and doomsday prophecies are always at the ready.
The one thing, however, that is just annoying to end is the notion that if only Israel relinquished the West Bank, peace will come. Every single day missiles are shot at Israel from the Gaza Strip. These same missiles, shot from the West Bank, will shut down the Ben Gurion Airport within days, if not hours from the moment Israel pulls out. That, in short order, would bring on another war, not peace. So to claim over and over again that holding on to the West Bank is expansionist and irrational is, itself, highly irrational.
Get over it. Israel is a strong democracy, and it’s citizen made their rational choices clearly in the past several election cycles. If you want to support Israel Democracy, you have to fight against the subversion of the Lefty NGOs. That is what this law is trying to do.

Arnon says:

Well, I still think the Israeli supreme court will strike the law down because it’s unenforceable.

The passionate article is wrong to think otherwise.

Bill Pearlman says:

You completely blew yourself out of the water by quoting Joseph Dana. That’s number one.

Number two, Jereme, I’m sorry if your tender sensibilities are offended but perhaps you should make aliyah, grab a rifle, stand a watch. then you can say whatever the hell you want. In the mean time. give it a rest.

Dani ben Leb says:

Joseph Dana is an activist/”journalist”.
I have reservations about receiving “information” from people who congregate at the very far end of the political spectrum. Mr Leibovitz needs to be careful about whom he quotes. I don’t regard Mr Lieberman’s press releases any higher than Mr. Dana’s or his US side kick Max Blumenthal. Both “journalists” with an agenda they feel very passionate about which is usually not disclosed in print ( Tablet ?? )
Hanging with Ali Abunimah ideologically or pseudo-academiclally is never a good idea as an Israeli, my opinion.
And Philipp Weiss, well, he runs mondoscheiss…’nough said.

Bill Pearlman says:

I think that Phil Weiss wishes WW2 had gone the other way. If the Germans had broken though at El Alamein and wiped out the yishuv. Then no Israel. And since he sees Israel has the worst development in human history. Satanic really. That would have been fine with him

Jacob.arnon says:

The law is unenforceable, Liel. It’s too vague and a vague law is no law.
Let’s not get too excited about this.

Israel does have problem though with citizens who call for boycotting other citizens. This is obscene. It also gives antisemites an excuse when they attack Israel claiming that if other Jews in Israel say the same thing it can’t be antisemitic. This is bunk.

If people like Liel would figure out how to present their point of view without delegitimizing Israel then she would have be taken more seriously.

I am no fan of Netanyahu or the Likud, and I support a two State solution. Still there are better ways of arriving there than by calling for boycotts.

Jackie says:

I dont like this law but I second the comments about joseph dana. First of all, his “analysis” is dead wrong – his own quote said the us law targets companies and it also targets individuals – it absolutely does not target countries or governments but rather individuals and companies supporting government calls for boycotts. Danas flagrant lie is not surprising considering he is a propogandist. I’m afraid I will have to BDS Tablet if they keep legitimizing propogandists whose life mission is to transform all of israel into a greater arab state of palestine with a minority of jews living under the rule of PM Haniyeh and a new parliament evenly divided between Fatah, Hamas, PFLP, and Islamic Jihad as Dana and his BDS supporting comrades want.

Jackie says:

(zionist political parties will be outlawed or boycotted if you will, in the new, “liberal” antizionist greater palestine that Dana and Barghouti advocate for.

Caroline says:

Boycott is a form of violence too.

BTW- Kristallnacht, also began a boycott of “Jewish propaganda “.
Joseph Dana is an anti – Israeli journalist.
I’m not leaving Israel behind.

And you?

Is that really all of you can talk about? The fact that he quoted Joseph Dana?

Jackie says:

Jon – it is not all I can talk about – I stated that I don’t support this law, and I’m also stating to Mr. Leibovitz that for this liberals like me who don’t support the law and want to fight it, the surest way to derail the fight for liberal and progressive values in israel is to make anti israel propogandists like joseph dana the face of that fight. Its like trying to criticize republican domestic policy by quoting noam chomsky or che guevara or fidel castro. You end up shooting your own side in the foot.

Jackie says:

Besides the point is that Danas “reporting” is factually incorrect. Apparently Dana can not read because he qoutes a line that says the US law targets American companies and then extrapolates from there that the law targets governments and countries. Why does Joseph Dana falsify information like this?

George Iversen says:

The problem with the anti boycott law is that it attacks one of the symptoms of a problem and not one of the root causes. Much of the money that is raised for BDS activity is raised from foreign sources and some of that money is raised from people who believe they are giving charitable donations and not political donations.

The United States has a law – the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, that deals with the issue quite effectively with no loss of free speech or danger to our democracy. Money donated to foreign agents is not a charitable expense. Those that receive money from foreign sources, directly or indirectly, for political purposes must divulge the source of their funds and must keep a diary of contacts with government officials and lobbying activities that is open for inspection. The public can thereby avoid being misled. Severe penalties await those who try to hide their funding sources and activities.

it would make much more sense for the Knesset to enact such an Act than the current one they have passed.

Caplan says:

“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.”

Leibovitz exaggerates. One law isn’t going to derail Israeli democracy.

To antiZionists the fact that the Jewish State exists is a challenge to their sense of democracy. These are using this one law to try and deligitimize Israel.

There were more antidemocratic laws passed in the US and Great Britain over the years than in Israel, yet it’s democracy survived. So will a democratic Jewish State survive.

I’d like Leibovitz to talk about democracy in the Arab or Muslim world. Does such a thing even exist?

Is Islamic democracy, democratic?

katy says:

The way I understand it, this law was intended to create a mechanism where organizations which boycott Israeli entities would not be eligible for Israeli government financial support. That makes total sense to me. It’s ridiculous for Israeli taxpayer money to be spent on anti-Israel organizations. So making that kind of boycott illegal prevents taxpayer support. I have no problem with that.

Yaakov Hillel says:

When Israel is attacked with lies and boycotts all our holy countries fill their mouths with water, and keep their lips shut tight. The British have thrown the Jews out of Britain for three hundred years. They received the Mandate of setting up an Israeli state for the Jews. Instead they did not let the Jews into the country even when every country including the Goldina Madina (USA)would not let Jews in to escape the Nazi Execution- yes into the country the League of Nations gave England the job of turning into a Jewish state. Instead they imported hundred of thousands of Muslims. They turned away unseaworthy ships that sunk with hundreds of survivors from the death camps of Hitler. The French would not continue to supply Israel parts to Airplanes Israel bought from them when in 1967, 8 Arab countries attacked Israel, or any other military needs. The Americans put an embargo on sending weapons at the same time, knowing that the Arab countries were receiving weapons from the soviet block and Israel from no one. England is making every effort to put a boycott on israeli Universities(probably because they are jealous of the Jews getting more Nobel Awards then they). How do these antisemites have the nerve to ban produce from Israeli areas of Judea and Samaria. This land never belonged to any Arab country. It was taken by force by the Jordanian Army in 1948 and Israel took it back in 1967. They do not want it back. Israel and Jordan have a full peace treaty between them. By the way the Majority of Jordan is Palestinian. By the UN rules just like they forced Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa to give up their countries to newcomers the same way the State of Jordan should become a Palestinian State. Countries all over Europe are sending Billions of Dollars to the Hamas terrorists, and yet the antisemitic NGO’s oof Europe want to boycott Israel. The countries that should be boycotted today are Syria and Iran. If Israel deems it necessary to make laws against those who

Yaakov Hillel says:

want to destroy her because Israel Is A Jewish country in “Dar al Islam” instead of being a corrupt Muslim tyranny. It is time for Europe to wake up and look what is happening in their countries. If Every European country had one Geert Wilders to straighten their crooked brains and send the Muslims back to where they came from. Their calamity of a vicious third world war could be eliminated. Apparently this is what is supposed to happen. This is probably the punishment that will happen to Europe for the Murder of European Jewry. With the present birthrate and immigration in less than 28 years the Muslims will become the majority in England, the law will be the Muslim Sharia and all the women will wear Burka’s If a girl will be raped by a stranger, her family will burn her to death. For petty theft children will have a hand cut off. Instead of looking at what Israel is doing to survive what will the English do to survive?

Bill Pearlman says:

Phil ( Hitler should have finished the job ) Weiss hates Israel and Jews so much that he cheers for Japan in the world cup. I don’t see how the US womens team losing hurts Israel but he thinks it does

Ezekiel says:

Turns out that answer #1 is, indeed (as many readers commented) a complete fallacy. Liel should have checked the actual American Law. You can find it at the bottom of the following quotes, below. This is definitely another example of the inexplicable rush to condemn Israel. Here it is:

July 13, 2011 | Eli E. Hertz
The Antiboycott laws under the U.S. Export Administration Act of 1979 [as amended in August 1999] were written specifically to protect Israel from the Arab League and other Moslem countries.
On Monday, July 11, 2011 the Knesset [the Israeli Parliament] passed an Antiboycott law against those who promote and call to boycott Israel.
Israel’s Attorney-General claims that the Israeli boycott laws’ border on unconstitutionality. A look at the U.S. Antiboycott laws objectives, should be helpful in defending the Israeli law.
“The [U.S.] Antiboycott laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott. Compliance with such requests may be prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and may be reportable to the Bureau.”
The U.S. Laws Prohibits among others:
“Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
“Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality.
“Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
“Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person.”
Acting against the U.S. laws is considered a criminal behavior and carry with it penalties of up to $1 million and 20 years imprisonment per violation.
For the entir

1.i think tablet should translate the ban law-it is very short-and publish it-and then everybody will know exactly what they are talking about.
2.as an israely from the center i dont like ban laws-but i dont like bans either.is there a black and white easy solution? the essence of democracy-as in life-is finding the middle way between opposing views.
the nature of life is that when one side pulls as far as it can to the left the other will pull to the right when it has the power and vice versa.americans need only look on what is happening between republicans and democrats on the default issue and what each side is saying and writing about the other.
3.i am equally afraid of the far left as of the far right.i dont beleive anymore that it is an argument between people who want the good of the country and its people -it is a war between religious fanatics who are willing to bring the house-country down on owr heads if their beleif cannot prevail.

Gene says:

You did not answer my question. The law is intended to protect “settlers” (minority of Israeli population – about 5%) against economical oppression from the majority (leftists and Arabs – approx. 25%, or 5 times more than “settlers”). Therefore the law designed to protect minority of population against the tyranny of majority – a necessary ingredient in every true democracy. Thus everyone who opposes it must be either a fascist or a fool.

Gene says:

Freedom of expression existed in nazi Germany but not in Israel:
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/ww2-pix/boycott1a.jpg

George Iversen says:

what follows is the NGO Monitor unofficial translation of the Law. it is short and clear.

Law for the Prevention of Harm to the State of Israel through Boycotts -
2011

Definition

1. In this law, “boycott of the State of Israel” – deliberate abstention
from economic, cultural or academic ties with a person or with another body,
only due to their affinity to the State of Israel, its institutions or an
area that is under its control, in such a way that may harm him
economically, culturally or academically.

Boycott – a civil wrong

2. (a) He who knowingly publicizes a public call for boycotting the State
of Israel, and according to the content of the call and the circumstances in
which it has been publicized there is a reasonable possibility that the call
will lead to the imposition of a boycott, and the he who published the call
was aware of this possibility, does a civil wrong and civil tort law [new
version] will be applied to him.

(b) With regard to clause 62 [A] of the civil tort law [new version], he
who causes a binding legal agreement to be breached by calling for a boycott
against the State of Israel will not be viewed as someone who operated with
sufficient justification.

(c) If the court finds that a civil wrong according to this law was
intentionally carried out, the court is authorized to charge the civil
wrongdoer with the payment of compensations that are not dependant on the
damage (in this clause – damages for example); when determining the amount
of damages for example, the court will take in to account, among others, the
circumstances in which the civil wrong had been carried out, its severity
and its scope.

Regulations pertaining to limitation on participation in tenders

3. The Finance Minister with the consent of the Minister of Justice and with
the approval of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset,
is authorized to set regulations as to the limitation of the participation
in a tender, of he who kno

George Iversen says:

the Anti Boycott law continued:

of he who knowingly publicized a public call for boycotting the
State of Israel or he who has promised to participate in such a boycott,
including pledging not to acquire products or services that are produced or
provided in the State of Israel, one of its institutions or in an area that
is under its control; in this clause “tender” – a tender that needs to be
held according to the Law of Requirement for Tenders 1992.

Regulations pertaining to the suspension of benefits

4. The Finance Minister, in consultation with the Minister of Justice, is
permitted to decide concerning someone who has knowingly publicized a public
call for imposing a boycott on the State of Israel or he who has committed
to participate in such a boycott, that:

(1) He will not be considered a public institution with regard to clause
46 of the income tax ordinance;

(2) He will not be eligible to receive funds from the Council for the
Regulation of Gambling in Sports according to clause 9 of the law on
Regulation of Gambling in Sports 1967; implementing the authority according
to this clause requires the approval of the Minister of Culture and Sports;

(3) He will not be considered a public institution according to clause 3a
of the Budget Foundations Law 1985 with regard to receiving support
according to a budgetary clause; implementing the authority according to
this clause requires the approval of the minister that has been assigned
responsibility by the government for that budgetary clause, as stated in
paragraph (2) above of the definition “person responsible for a budgetary

George Iversen says:

Anti boycott law continues:

clause” in the aforesaid law;

(4) He will not be eligible for a guarantee according to the Law of
Guarantees on behalf of the State 1958.

(5) He will not be entitled to benefits according to the Law for
Encouraging Capital Investments – 1959 or according to the Law for
Encouraging Research and Development in Industry 1984; implementing the
authority according to this clause requires the approval of the Minister of
Industry, Trade and Employment.”

Implementation

5. The Minister of Justice is appointed to implement this law

Took three posts but the above is the NGO Monitor unofficial translation

Jay A Friedman says:

As an American- Israeli (27 years in the USA and the last 44 years in Israel), I oppose three elements of Israel society and one element of American society.

I am against the right wing that encourages the boycott of Israeli Arab college students who seek rental housing in that city which will enable them to concentrate on their studies. I am against the right wing settlers in Yehuda and Shomron who – without government approval – violate Israeli law and put our soldiers at risk.

I am against the left wing that espouse their “universalist” values which – to them – means dismissal of Jewish history and Jewish nationhood.

I am against the Boycott Law which would deprive both wings of the democratic right to voice their views – no matter how despicable I believe them to be.

Regarding American society – I oppose those Jews in the United States who are on the periphery of American society because they are Jews and on the periphery of Jewish society because they are in the Diaspora. They have no concept whatever of the Israeli experience – the beauty… the comradeship …the debate…the danger. They have a single faceted view of Israeli society. Their unsolicited advice is generated by their own American experience – not the wonderful Israeli experience which is our daily joy.

Caplan says:

One last reply to Liel and her supporters:

“Just as Abbas was about to reap the gold medal for hypocrisy, Catherine Ashton broke a new record. After the Knesset passed a law last week that enables Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people or organizations instigating anti-Israel boycotts, Ashton expressed public concern for freedom of speech in Israel. Which makes Ashton eligible for the gold medal of hypocrisy too, because in Europe anti-Israel boycott is a criminal offence. In France, for example, you can go to jail for three years and pay a €45,000 fine for trying to impede economic activity out of political, ethnic, or religious prejudice (Articles 225-1 and 225-2 of the “Code pénal”).

The French law is more stringent than the one recently passed by the Knesset. The new Israeli law does not criminalize boycott. It only allows “citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control.” So the New Israel’s Fund’s statement that the new law “criminalizes freedom of speech” is false and misleading. The new Israeli law does not criminalize boycott, let alone freedom of speech. French law, by contrast, does criminalize boycott.”

navonsblog.blogspot.com/

lazerbeam says:

Bibi is a bigger screw-up than Bush II. Ironically, the new law will incite boycotts from outside Israel and I will join in, because political insanity deriving from pandering to religious zealotry has a high price.

babawawa says:

I hope the new boycott law holds and the left gets a taste of its own medicine. This isn’t about democracy because every democracy has anti-boycott laws. It’s about justice. Word is that when the lefties printed a list of products to be boycotted, Israelis went out and bought them up. Leftists believe in free speech – for themselves only. Time to rock their world.

Here we go again. All those “experts” who don’t fight in Israel’s
wars and who don’t vote in Israel’s elections have so much to say
about every move that Israel makes. As for me, let Israel (and
those who have the courage to live in Israel) decide Israel’s
policies regarding defense issues. Those of you who don’t fight in
or live in, Israel should just SHUT UP! Israel has gotten along
fine for 63 years without all of you “experts.” Yes, the boycott
issue is a defense issue and I support whatever decision Israel makes.
Gil -

Liel Liebovitz is entitled to is own opinion. In the end, in a democratic state, we, the people, do decide – and we decided to support this law. What some leftwing US Jews think does not concern us and does not interest us.
You want to change things in Israel ? Make Aliyah (as M. Liebovitz did apparently), serve in the army (if you are young enough), pay your taxes, and live the reality. Like most people here, you will very quickly move to the right-wing, because the reality is right-wing.

Dani ben Leb says:

@ BEN
Mr Liebovitz left Israel for the USA.

Jacob.arnon says:

Where there are Jews there will be democracy. Two Jews three opinions that’s how it’s always been.

Even during the dark days in German besieged Warsaw Ghetto Jews argued among themselves on how best to fight the Nazis.

No law will change that. The law shall be overturned.

brynababy says:

Jackie and Jacob, Hear, hear!

Yeah!

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No, the Anti-Boycott Law Really Isn’t OK

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