The boycott law

July 13, 2011

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Even aliens from space would note that the phenomenon of Israeli citizens calling for economic boycotts to topple their own State is strange, and can also be seen to challenge democratic process in and of itself. Likewise to attempt to boycott specific areas in Israeli control, and in so doing to suggest that the economy of tax-paying Israeli citizens over the Green Line is somehow separate from the economy of the rest of Green Line Israel is naïve at best and disingenuous at worst.

Having said that, in Natan Sharansky’s book, The Case for Democracy, he offers the test of the Public Square. Can a person enter the public square, and express an opinion without fear of arrest? Israel’s Knesset has just ruled that one might not necessarily fear arrest, but one should brace oneself for a pricey law suit and a fine.

If any Israeli calls for the boycott of any person or any group for the reason that they live in Israel – or in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria – they are liable to be taken to court.

According to the Public Square Test, Israel could now be seen to be edging away from being a free society, teetering on the brink of what Sharansky might call a “fear society”. At the same time, this ellision between Judea and Samaria/West Bank and the rest of Israel would seem to place Israel’s most contentious and complex conflicts into the hands of one of the State’s bluntest tools: Legislation.

We would suggest that four variables are jostling for space: it is difficult to deny that Israel is under threat from enemies uninterested in subtleties, this law seriously limits personal freedom, boycotts are a blunt and anti-dialogical tool, and the new law while muffling in no way silences Israeli debate about the future borders of our State.

In the light of our hope that Israel offers us the opportunity “To Be A Free People In Our Land”, as sketched out here in our blog, we are drawn to ask three painful questions:

1. In order To Be, to survive in a hostile world, to what extent are we willing to compromise aspects of our Freedom ?

2. Are sweeping boycotts and sweeping legislation the best way we can galvanise solidarity amongst our People?

3. What should be our response now that public definitions of Our Land include all lands in Israeli control (in the words of the new law)?

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