Ahmad Tibi, an Arab Israeli, is deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament and has written the following article in the International Herald Tribune:
Free speech in Israel was dealt a severe blow this month when the country’s Parliament passed antiboycott legislation that targets individuals or organizations publicly calling for a boycott against Israel or any area under its control.
Because I believe in ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, equal rights for Palestinians and Jews, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees forced from their homes and lands in 1948, I support boycotting — and calling on others to boycott — all Israeli companies that help perpetuate these injustices.
But this new legal limit on free speech could bankrupt me.
Israeli officials will not throw me in jail for publicly supporting such boycotts, but settler groups can claim financial damages without even having to show any harm done. Furthermore, organizations supporting boycotts could be denied tax-deductible contributions and state funding. This week, I appealed the law to the high court.
Already, a member of the Knesset, our Parliament, Alex Miller, has threatened to sue me for my words — specifically my call, which I continue to make today, to boycott the illegal Jewish settlement of Ariel. Such a call would be unremarkable in a proper democracy with untrammeled free speech. The right to criticize a population that has dispossessed Palestinians and discriminated against us for decades should be protected speech.
Perhaps my parliamentary immunity will protect me, but that can readily be stripped. Moreover, parliamentary immunity will not protect Israelis who urge fellow citizens not to buy Ahava beauty products created from natural resources illegally extracted from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea and manufactured in a factory in an illegal West Bank settlement, to avoid wines from the occupied Golan Heights, or to hire construction companies other than those that build exclusive and discriminatory housing units for settlers in occupied East Jerusalem.