Instead of simply announcing that it opposes BDS, which would be a perfectly legitimate stance, the Israeli government is criminalizing the movement and its advocates. The results won’t be pretty.
On March 8 police near Jerusalem picked up an Israeli citizen who was just standing on the street. He was not doing anything illegal. Someone who lived in the neighborhood reported him on suspicion of carrying material related to BDS; and while it is not illegal for Israelis to carry material about BDS in territory under Israel’s control, the police answered the call.
Jeff Halper, the director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) was speaking to a tour group in Maaleh Adumim, a large Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The police detained him in a place that was one of his regular stops with tour groups, he explained.
“I wasn’t talking about BDS or holding a sign that day,” he wrote in an email exchange with +972 Magazine, “but I sometimes do and so do our other guides. So someone called the police. They should have said to the caller: ‘Thanks for letting us know, but this is a democracy and people can talk on the street (even about BDS).’ But they didn’t of course, and detained me for ‘incitement.'”
BDS is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Its advocates pursue a variety of non-violent tactics aimed at pressuring Israel to apply international law to the Palestinian residents living under its sovereignty.
Last week the Knesset approved a law barring entry to foreigners who support BDS. An earlier anti-BDS law, commonly called the Boycott Law, was passed in 2011. The 2011 law gives Israelis the right to bring civil suit against BDS advocates in cases where they can prove their livelihood has been undermined as a result. Both laws have been widely criticized for violating basic principles of freedom of speech. Both apply to boycotts not only of Israel, but also of its settlements in the West Bank.
Yet it is still not against the law for Israeli citizens to support or even call on others to support BDS. They just have to bear in mind that they might be sued in civil court for their advocacy.
The police did not arrest Jeff Halper on Monday, but the fact that they detained and questioned him speaks to...Read More