The Israeli parliament has passed a law in effect banning citizens from calling for academic, consumer or cultural boycotts of Israel in a move denounced by its opponents as anti-democratic.
The “‘Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott” won a majority of 47 to 38, despite strong opposition and an attempt to filibuster the six-hour debate. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not take part in the vote.
Under the terms of the new law, an individual or organisation proposing a boycott may be sued for compensation by any individual or institution claiming that it could be damaged by such a call. Evidence of actual damage is not be required.
The new law aims to protect individuals and institutions in both Israel and the Palestinian territory it has occupied illegally under international law since 1967. It in effect bans calls for consumer boycotts of goods produced in West Bank settlements, or of cultural or academic institutions in settlements. It also prevents the government doing business with companies that comply with boycotts.
A coalition of Israeli human rights groups immediately issued a letter of protest over the new law.
Hassan Jabareen of Adalah, a legal centre for Israeli-Arab citizens, said: “Defining boycott as a civil wrong suggests that all Israelis have a legal responsibility to promote the economic advancement of the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This means that Israeli organisations opposing the settlements as a matter of principle are in a trap: any settler can now constantly harass them, challenging them to publicly declare their position on the boycott of settlements and threatening them with heavy compensation costs if they support it.”