An expanded panel of nine justices of the Israeli High Court of Justice will hear a petition against the “anti-boycott law” Sunday morning, which several NGOs are arguing silences debate on one of the most important and divisive issues in Israeli society.
Passed by the Knesset in 2011, the law, formally known as the “Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott,” allows those who feel they have been harmed by a boycott – whether against Israel or an Israeli institution or territory (i.e. the settlements in the West Bank) – to sue the person or organization who publicly called for it.
If a person calls for a boycott of academic institutions that participate in the occupation or companies operating in the occupied territories, she/he could be sued in civil court and ordered to pay compensation.
The definition is very broad — even a simple call not to visit a certain place falls under it. The plaintiff doesn’t even have to prove damages. A link to a translation of the full text can be found here.
According to Adalah’s (one of the NGOs petitioning the law) press release:
In the petition filed in 2012, Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Sawsan Zaher, and ACRI Legal Advisor Dan Yakir argued that the law must be cancelled as it imposes a ‘price tag’ on legitimate political expression, and thus, undermines public debate on the most controversial issues in Israeli society. The law violates the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, dignity and equality. The petitioners argued that the law, due to the severe sanctions imposed, has created a ‘chilling effect’ that deters all those wishing to express a political stance by calling for a boycott.
Both the law itself and its impact on constitutional rights have been sharply criticized by civil society organizations in Israel, the European Union, the United States government, and international human rights organizations. The Knesset’s legal adviser also expressed his strong stance against the law, stating that it constitutes ‘injury to the heart of free political expression in Israel.’