Israel outlaws West Bank settlement boycotts

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Israel outlaws West Bank settlement boycotts

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It is now against the law for people in Israel to call for a boycott against products from West Bank Jewish settlements. The new ‘Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott’ covers academic, consumer and cultural blacklisting, giving injured parties the right to compensation.

The legislation passed through the country’s parliament on Monday with a majority of 47 to 38, despite attempts to delay the vote. The government is also prevented from doing business with companies promoting those types of boycott.

Israeli Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said the law is to protect Israel: “Boycotting Israeli products, or products that are produced anywhere in Israel, is an economic action against the state of Israel. Every state is expected to defend itself. I think the state of Israel should defend itself against any such actions.”

Recently, there have been several boycott attempts including on a university and cultural centre in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Some Israeli companies have also agreed not to use material from settlements in the construction of the new Palestinian city of Rawabi.

Anyone breaking the law by supporting a geographically-based boycott could be fined up to 10,000 euros. An opinion poll showed 52 percent of Israelis support the law.

One settlers, who gave his name only as Shimi, said it is time to stop singling them out: “I wouldn’t want anyone to boycott me, as I don’t want other minority groups in Israel to be boycotted either. I wouldn’t want Arabs or Ethiopians boycotted, so there’s no reason to boycott settlers. What’s wrong with that?”

However, opponents like Michael Karayanni, a law professor at Hebrew University, see the legislation as undemocratic as it stops people exercising their principles.

He said: “The first problem with the law is that it makes boycotting something illegal because it is now a civil wrong under the law. Whereas before, boycotting was considered one form of protest, and protesting is an integral part of any democracy.”

Another problem with the new law is that it is not being applied to all forms of boycott – just geographical ones, meaning, for example, it is still legal for ultra-Orthodox Jews to boycott companies that sell pork.