Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Age Of Wonders

There is little I can add to Bradley Burston's passionate column on the anti-boycott law, which passed the Knesset this week, and will eventually go to the Supreme Court for overturning. What I can add is my deep sense of sorrow, which Brad--a Berkeley radical who, like myself, gravitated to Israel in the Sixties for the progressive and cultural innovations of Labor Zionism--shares. We thought that we were coming to a place where the new Jew was being born; and the unity of Jerusalem and the emancipation of Soviet Jews would yield an age of wonders. We did not figure on Avigdor Lieberman.

Here is the nub of Burston's column on the law:

1. The measure curbs political freedom of expression in Israel in a number of ways, setting potentially significant – and dangerous – precedents. It allows any individual to, in effect, become a private law enforcement agency, empowered to bring lawsuits against anyone or any group the plaintiff accuses of having taken part in or even simply supported any action the plaintiff construes as a boycott against Israel, against the settlements, or even any individual Israeli, for any reason.

2. The measure erases the legal differentiation between settlements and Israel proper, regarding targeted boycotts against goods from the settlements as actions harmful to the state of Israel itself.

3. The Knesset's apolitical Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon has ruled that the law's broad definition of "boycotting the state of Israel", coupled with its "civil wrongdoing" or anyone-can-sue clause, may compromise freedom of expression where it comes to public debate over the fate of the West Bank. Prior to the Monday vote, Yinon stated that the law could be brought to bear against targeted boycotts "whose goal is to influence the political debate in connection with the future of Judea and Samaria, a discussion which has been at the heart of political debate in Israel for more than 40 years now."

4. The effect of the law could be crippling to the efforts of all organizations and many individuals working for Israeli-Palestinian peace and enhanced freedoms and human rights within Israel and the territories. The rabid anti-NGO campaigns of Im Tirtzu and other groups could escalate into a full-bore "lawfare" offensive, hauling them repeatedly into court and costing them prohibitive legal fees.