Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

So Is Israel's New Anti-Boycott Law Undemocratic?

Inside Israel and outside, one avowedly pro-Israel individual and organisation after another has argued in the affirmative.  For example, to quote an antipodean example (hat tip: J-Wire) that appears representative of the widespread condemnation voiced, the executive director of the Union for Progressive Judaism in Australia states of the new law, which the Knesset passed by 47 votes to 38:
"While we are totally opposed to any boycotts or sanctions we are gravely concerned when the Government of Israel makes non-violent protest a criminal act.  Israel is the bastion of democracy in the Middle East but such legislation undermines this position and only serves those who seek to deny Israel’s democratic basis.  The passage of the anti-boycott legislation, and other recent decisions by the Knesset, tarnishes the open, inclusive, democratic Israel for which we all work each day.
Rather than having to speak out against this legislation we would prefer to be working with Israel to combat the odious efforts to delegitimize her and to encourage our communities to provide moral and financial support."
Politically leftist elements are shriller and less temperate in their denunciations; I shall not raise my blood pressure by quoting them here.

But there is an alternative argument, one that hasn't received as much attention as it undoubtedly ought, and which has been well-articulated in the Jerusalem Post by Eugene Kontorovich, who teaches constitutional law at Northwestern University in the United States.

Here's part of what he writes:
'These criticisms are wrong as a matter of principle. More insidiously, they hold Israel to a standard never applied to other nations, and criticizes it for passing laws that are well within the western democratic mainstream. Moreover, the outrage over the anti-boycott law carries a dose of hypocrisy, as it ignores numerous other laws in Israel that are used to restrict political speech generally associated with the right wing.
There is no universal code of free speech. Determining what gets protection involves trade-offs between the very real harm that speech can cause and the benefit of free expression....
The United States has far more robust constitutional speech protections than almost any Western country....
But even the US has a law against boycotting Israel. It has been on the books for decades, and has been regularly enforced, but no one has suggested it is unconstitutional – and that is for a law protecting another country’s economy. Moreover, Israel’s law, unlike the American one, applies only to organizing boycotts, not to actually adhering to one....
Every nation has laws against conspiracies to cause economic harm: antitrust laws prohibit speech when its purpose is to unfairly cause economic harm. And the common law makes it a tort to “interfere with prospective business advantage,” i.e. scaring off someone’s customers.
The anti-boycott law prohibits speech intended to cause economic harm to businesses solely because of their national identity. Nondiscrimination laws commonly ban plans to deny business to specified groups of certain national or ethnic origins.
Israel’s new law bans discrimination against businesses because they are Israeli.
Most European states – and Israel – have laws prohibiting speech that is perceived as “hateful” or which simply offends the feelings of particular groups. Often such speech expresses important viewpoints.
A boycott of Israel promotes hatred of Israel, and certainly offends the vast majority of Israelis. To be sure, boycott supporters argue that at least when it comes to settlers, such hatred is deserved, but that is always the opinion of those whose speech is blocked by such laws.
The boycott movement is designed to imperil the State of Israel, and can actually do so. This danger outweighs the benefits of allowing such speech, especially since the law does not in any way limit advocating policies or viewpoints that such boycotts are supposed to promote. Indeed, the law has a characteristic crucial for free-speech scrutiny – it is “viewpoint neutral.”
That is, it applies to boycotts of Israel whether organized by the left wing or the right wing.
Like most European democracies, Israel’s constitutional protection of speech has long been narrower than America’s....
Israel’s current practice is clearly well within the limits of an open democracy. Singling out Israel for laws that are identical to, or just as restrictive as, laws on the books in America and Europe manifests the very problem that exists with the boycotts themselves – the application of an entirely different set of standards to Israel than to the rest of the free world.'
The entire article can be read here:


  1. It is my understanding that this law is merely civil in nature. It allows companies over the Green Line to sue if they feel that an organization has impacted it financially. To me this sounds like put your money where your mouth is...Others do not have a right to interfere with the economic viability of another company. There are civil redresses for that in any country. This is just an extension of those laws. This hullaballoo over nothing is just another example of a double standard applied to Israel and no other country.

    Where is the outcry from the world and human rights organziations against countries that adhere to the economic boycott of Israel or the companies and Universities that are so eager to engage Arab money that they even shut down departments dedicated to antisemitism like at Yale and fire any professor who is seen as pro-Israel, check out the London School of Economics or St. Andrews in Scotland for that matter.

    Too bad so many idiot leftist Jews, like the ADL, jump on this bandwagon merely becasue this law is in defense of the settlements. I think it is time to agree that we can dispel the notion that Jews are an intelligent group of people. When Jews any where support the BDS movement in any form it shows an inordinate amount of vapid stupidity. But then again what do you expect from the US Jews who just elected a proponent of the BDS to head the Reform Movement.They really just make a thinking person ill.

  2. Oh, good heavens! What is the US Reform Movement thinking of, IP?!

  3. It is one of the reasons we left the movement. Today we are merely Jewish-Americans. Very simply put. It was a terrible balagan here and those who opposed Rabbi Jacobs actually had their livelihoods threatened by the powers that be in the Reform Movement.Jacobs is a board member of JStreet, however, I think he resigned from their rabbinic board once he was officially elected.
    (I actually wrote about it on my blog...Glad I am No Longer a Reform Jew)

    When someone tells you that the Jews of America worship at the altar of liberal progressive politics instead of the God of Israel have no doubt that they are right. Unfortunately there has been so much lost in the last generation that the majority of Jews have no idea where their religion and history begins and their politics ends.

    When we wrote a letter to our rabbi telling him that his politics was the reason we were leaving our Temple he actually wrote us back saying that it is his Judaism that propels him to be progressive and belong to JStreet. Unfortunately for most Jews who are uneducated about their heritage and religion they will buy into this delusion more and more.

    Honestly I do not think that the entirety of the US Jewish National Organizations are really any different.They have been hijacked by Democratic supporters and shills who have effectively ostracized anyone who doesn't tow the Democratic Party line. Even look at AIPAC who refused to condemn Obama before the last election despite his antisemitic ties because the President of AIPAC was a Democratic Bundler. hit a raw nerve..I actually have no real answer...

  4. Thanks, Elise. The situation in Australia is rather different - at least for now.

  5. Apologies Daphne...Elise and IP are one in the same, just didn't switch to the right Google account to comment. If you want to read about the balagan in the Reform movement check out the Liberty's Spirit blog under the IP name. Again apologies for any confusion.

  6. Thanks - no need to apologise. Your meaty comments are much valued!
    I will check out that blog.

  7. Will add it to my blogroll - anti-J Street (hurray!!!)

  8. No worries - should have done so before.

  9. The Trade Practices Act in Australia, which is now called the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, says that boycotts are illegal if the company/business concerned suffers loss of trade /earnings.

    The Act says the “ACCC can take representative action in relation to the secondary boycott provisions and will assist small businesses in recouping losses suffered as a result of illegal boycott conduct. “

  10. Here's the law, sent by the Executive Director of the ECAJ

    Boycotts affecting trade or commerce

    (1) A person must not, in concert with another person, engage in conduct for the purpose, and having or likely to have the effect, of preventing or substantially hindering a third person (who is not an employer of the first person) from engaging in trade or commerce involving the movement of goods between Australia and places outside Australia.

    Note 1: Conduct that would otherwise contravene this section can be authorised under subsection 88(7).

    Note 2: This section also has effect subject to section 45DD, which deals with permitted boycotts.

    (2) A person is taken to engage in conduct for a purpose mentioned in subsection (1) if the person engages in the conduct for purposes that include that purpose.

  11. Interesting, Shirlee - you're a gem!

  12. The ECAJ has spoken with Max Brenner and Seacret (Dead Sea skin care products)and it appears the BDS actions have actually improved business. !!!

    I notice that reading comments on various articles around the place. Many, many people haven't hear of Max Brenner and say they will definitely go to one of his shops, being chocolate lovers.

  13. I have two recruits waiting to visit, Shirlee!
    Hope Max does dark chocolate because that's the type I love! Getting fat just thinking about it ...

  14. His chocolates are delish !!!

  15. Will make a beeline for Max asap!