Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Israeli Anti-Boycott Law
July 12, 2011
JVP expresses our enormous alarm at the new anti-Boycott law, passed by the Israeli
Knesset on July 11, 2011. In a move further distancing itself from its claims of being a
democratic state, Israel has removed only boycotts related to campaigns for Palestinian human rights from the realm of protected free speech .
Israel’s newly passed anti-Boycott law means everyone from Israeli anti-occupation
organizations, to individuals who publicly refuse to buy settlement goods, to actors who refuse to perform in illegal Israeli settlements, to corporations that heed the call to leave the West Bank, to non-profit organizations could all face devastating fines and penalties with little recourse.
The anti-boycott law is intended to apply to political expression through engaging in or calling for a boycott, only if the subject of the boycott is related to the State of Israel, has become punishable. Economic action in favor of Palestinian freedom and equality has been brought outside the realm of acceptable speech or action. Potential punishment includes: company prohibition from government contracts, non-profit organizations’ loss of non-profit tax status, and exemption from receiving government contracts. This law enables anyone who disagrees with boycott to sue any individual or organization calling for boycott – a move that could likely empty the small coffers of our non-profit allies. Further, it ensures that anyone making the moral decision to cancel a contract because a supplier uses Occupation-made products, for example, will be penalized for this decision.
This is not the first law Israel has enacted this year severely curtailing freedom of speech
when it comes to human rights of Palestinians. In March 2011, Israel passed the so-called Nakba law, cutting off state funding to any organization that discussed the Nakba, or “catastrophe” of mass displacements, killings, and demolished villages that befell Palestinians at the founding of the State of Israel. The Knesset’s own legal advisor has warned the Knesset that the anti-Boycott law threatens freedom of speech in Israel, yet Israel seems determined to respond to criticism by suppressing it rather than addressing its content.
The boycott law does not distinguish between targeted boycott aimed at ending the
Occupation or “full” boycott against Israel. All are forms of expression and action that will now carry steep penalties. The Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, issued in 2005, has been taken up by numerous organizations around the world in letter and in spirit, and this law can only be seen as a fearful acknowledgement the movement’s growing power.
Numerous Israeli organizations have taken the principled stance of supporting some form
of boycott, divestment or sanction, in recognition that BDS tactics are some of the most effective non-violent tactics effecting political change. Individuals such as the artists who refused to perform in the settlement of Ariel are following their personal conscience. Companies have moved over the Green Line into Israel under pressure from international campaigns. Individuals in Israel, as do individuals around the world, vote with their feet by choosing products that are not produced in settlements. All of these organizations and individuals are vulnerable under this new law.
JVP has taken up targeted boycott, divestment, and sanctions, most notably through
our TIAA-CREF campaign and through our support in organizing leading US artists and actors to support the Israeli actors boycott of the settlements. In asking TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that do business in and build the infrastructure of the Occupation, we take our lead from and work in consultation with our Palestinian and Israeli allies. JVP will continue our boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts despite the muzzling of our allies in Israel, and we will continue to support those individuals and organizations who defy this new anti-democratic law.