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The boycott law is in effect. Wait, can I write that?

The media cycle has been dominated by news of the anti-boycott law this week.  However, some might have missed a crucial point; the anti-boycott law is now in effect.  What does this mean for my writing on +972 and the work of the site in general?

Simply put, if I write an opinion piece in which I support or even insinuate support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions call (BDS) or a boycott of settlement products, +972 could face a legal battle and the possibility of endless fines. I could face a legal battle if I write a post arguing that BDS is one of the most effective forms of Palestinian nonviolence and should be supported by those that prefer nonviolent resistance to its violent incarnation. Because of the law, I must note that I am not endorsing the previous sentence because that would be illegal. In fact, I asked other people to review this text just to make sure that I have not challenged the law in any way, shape or form.

The Forward had an editorial this week about the boycott law in which they “deleted” a number of lines which are no longer allowed in the State of Israel. I am unable to do the same thing here because as an Israeli citizen, even printing similar words would be a violation of the new law. Note, I am in no way endorsing the Forward’s editorial, since that would be illegal. In order to be sued, a settler or business owner somewhere in Israel simply has to prove that I intend to do his business/settlement harm by calling for a boycott. In other words, the law is based on the intent of the boycotter and not on any actual economic results.

In the past, I have written a number of pieces on +972 which, if they had been written today, could land me in legal trouble with the State of Israel. This piece, written in April, would not be published in the current climate. Also, this well read and debated piece, co-written with Max Blumenthal, would surely not be posted on this site in the current climate. In short, my ability to write in this public forum has been severely curtailed.

Due to the fact that we are a small start up project, with no financial resources, we will take great efforts to make sure that we are not in violation of the new law. The intimidation of the law is enough for the process of self censorship to take full effect on our work. There are a number of opinions about BDS and settlement boycott on +972, this law has made it so that those who support or even flirt with such nonviolent initiatives no longer have a seat at the debate.

I am not the only one who has been silenced by this law.  Already  +972 has had to turn down a number of well-reasoned pieces written by civil society leaders in Israel for the +972 guest blog because they are just too close to supporting BDS and/or settlement boycotts. Outside from the verbose discussion regarding the end of Israeli democracy which this bill might signal, our work on +972 has been stifled because of Israel’s new anti-boycott law.  This is a tragedy for all that value the free flow of opinion and discussion about issues critical to the future of the State of Israel, her occupation and the Palestinians.

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    1. TheThinker1958

      Does the boycott law means that Israel can apply 10 times more violence to the Palestinian people and nobody can oppose Israel? And the US is ok with this? Is the UN ok with this? Is Europe ok with this? Why isn’t the entire World doing anything?

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    2. annie

      does this extend to your comments and if so how will this impact your comment threads? could you be held responsible for the discussions? will you have to screen your guests accordingly? or could our comments make you liable?

      i’m sorry. my first thought(instinct) was to say come home, come back to us. but i know israel is your home now and you are needed there, and we need you there.

      i am so sorry joseph. i am so sorry israel. but w/this legislation i am not sorry for palestine. ultimately it will just continue to show the world how draconian things are there and that can only help expose the truth of what israel has become. i’m sorry it has come to this. it will not stop us visiting your site. there is still much you can say in solidarity, as of now. it is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

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    3. That is so sad. But only to be expected. Israel is not and never was a democracy. I hope that the few people in Israel who have a conscience manage to get out before it’s too late. And I’d suggest that they take a tip from the Old Testament and not look back.

      From what I can see there are not enough good Jews to justify saving the country, but those who have not strayed from Torah (by means of the transparent subterfuge that non-Jewish neighbors aren’t neighbors and therefore can be treated in hateful ways), can still be saved as individuals.

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    4. incommonworld

      You will have to write under a pseudonym and publish on alternate sites & mirrors. There has got to be a way to get the Palestine/ free speech boycott to every ear
      many blessings

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    5. I’m with Mark and his OT allusions.
      The idea of Israel as a democracy must be taken with a lot of very large grains of salt. How long will good people like you want to stay there?

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    6. Philos

      Question to JD. Have you heard how the law affects Comments / Talkbacks? Is a paper responsible for those or can an intrepid settler try to track someone down and sue them for their comments to articles?

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    7. I am not sure about the comments but I do believe that we are responsible for them. This is one reason why we have a strict comment policy when it comes to incitement to violence. As you see in the post, I am not really surprised at very much that this law is going to throw at me. The fact of the matter is that my freedom of speech has been taken away from me. I am not concerned about whether or not the High Court will rule the law down because the law is in effect right now. This horrible attack on free speech was passed by the Israeli Knesset, that is enough for me to be quite upset with the current system. But it is always worse for Palestinians, so the fact that anyone is surprised reflects their own lack of understanding of how this country works. Thanks for all the great comments!

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    8. k

      the law goes into effect 90 days from the date it was passed

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    9. @K
      only article 4 takes 90 days to take effect. according to ACRI’s legal team, the rest of the law is effective since last week.

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    10. I would like to exercise my right to free expression (I live in a marginally less dysfunctional democracy, the UK) and say that boycotting settlement goods is a fabulous idea and something everyone should do and encourage others to do.

      Anti-occupation groups outside Israel (such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians http://jfjfp.com) will continue to be as vocal as possible in their support for this position.

      Frustrated Israeli authors should feel free to submit pro-boycott articles for publication on our site which is thankfully hosted in the free world.

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    11. Eitan

      Hi Joseph,

      What’s your take on your ability or obligation of a journalist to commit acts of civil disobedience?

      A lot of Israeli citizens have already called for boycotts on the settlements (e.g., http://www.atzuma.co.il/solidarity), on the one hand, and others have joined the BDS call, on the other.

      Do you think that journalists have different obligations in this respect than private citizens?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Kim Nguyen

      One aspect of this anti-democratic law (can I say that?) that I don’t know: Does it attack (can I say that?) any generalized endorsement of another Israeli who endorses BDS (can I say that?)? What about a generalized endorsement or encouragement of a non-israeli citizen (can I say that?) who has in the past or may in the future endorse BDS(can I say that?)? What about blessing Palestinian (can I say that?) babies who may grow up to endorse BDS (can I say that?)

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    13. directrob

      You cannot be clear enough, put on top of your page in a large font that due to limitations to Israeli free speech and the fear of personal civil liability you will not allow any comments referring to any boycott initiatives (such as for example BDS) against Israel or Israeli institutions.

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    14. Danny

      @Aaron Dover:
      The UK is light years ahead of Israel in political terms. Ironically enough, Israeli democracy today resembles Iranian democracy; they hold elections too, plus they jail dissidents and shoot demonstrators – things that are fast becoming mainstream in Israel. The main difference between Israel and Iran is that Iran doesn’t occupy any of its neighbors.

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    15. max

      Funny, it reminds me so much of discussions about Great Britain’s libel laws that prevent people from truthfully condemning public officials 🙂
      GB, of course, isn’t a democracy.
      Meretz in Jerusalem just called the mayor to boycott WB products.
      No charges expected, as obviously the mayor won’t follow the call (ever really studied the law?).
      The law does not in any way limit advocating policies or viewpoints that boycotts are supposed to promote, it merely provides a tool to address the damage to Israeli ‘legal entities’ that follow the government’s (actually, ALL governments’) policies.
      Why bother with legalistic details if one’s right to harm is questioned?

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    16. Mark Kerpin

      “Israel is not and never was a democracy. I hope that the few people in Israel who have a conscience manage to get out before it’s too late.”
      This is the kind of unhelpful rubbish the left in Israel doesn’t need to hear. Donate money to 972, to the New Israel Fund, to ACRI. There are still plenty of institutions fighting this law and the govt., and elections are not too far down the road.

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    17. If you hold dual U.S./Israeli citizenship, the solution to your problem seems clear. Give up your Israeli citizenship. As far as I know, U.S. citizens won’t be silenced by this law. Not yet anyway. No doubt, that will be the next phase of this operation as both Israel and the U.S. continue down the road to overt fascism in support of Zionism.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Dimi Reider

      @Aaron – actually, the law is not geographically constrained to Israel. And anyway, thanks to a recent verdict against offshore gambling sites operators, Israelis who violate Israeli laws by publishing material accessible from Israel can be prosecuted. But thanks 🙂

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    19. The method in Netanyahu’s madness
      “They are making it impossible to organise joint peaceful and non-violent resistance, whether in the form of boycotts or solidarity visits. The only way being left open is violence.” writes Jonathan Cook
      As we have seen for decades: if they refuse to attack us, we will make them by targeted killings, terrorizing their homes and villages, and if that doesn’t work we’ll create laws that will leave them no other choice. The whole project from the 19th century on is based on a selffulfilling prophecy.
      “We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just, justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or Achmet agree with it or not. There is no other morality”, as Vlamimir Jabotinsky said. I’m sure he’ll have a boner in his grave over this achievement.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Danny

      All countries have libel laws. The boycott law is nothing of the kind. This law prevents (indirectly, since a direct approach such as mass imprisonment of boycotters would naturally look bad on CNN) freedom of speech and freedom of protest, and is completely unconstitutional. (Fortunately for Israel, it has no constitution, so no problem there!) While libel laws aim to protect people from wrongful besmirching by other people, the boycott law is a specific law that protects only one tiny segment of the population, while allowing boycotts in all other segments. So, for example, Haredi boycotts of non-Kosher shops are still kosher, but Lefty boycotts of settlement products are not. Does this seem equitable to you? If the knesset had an ounce of integrity, it would have outlawed all calls for boycott, including those by the government against left-wing organizations such as J-street. But, I guess Israel likes having their cake and eating it too, huh?

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    21. Andrew

      I almost thought that when I clicked “LIKE” for Facebook, the confirmation would say “You LIKED this article, but we ASSUME you didn’t mean to LIKE the boycott – since that would be illegal”

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    22. Dannecker

      Conveniently the zionists foment dissention in Syria to cover up their crimes, which are orders of magnitude greater that that of the Assad brothers. The new law proves that isreael is less democratic than Syria. Joseph, the time is now to renounce israeli citizenship and seek asylum in the west

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    23. You have, within your Declaration of Independence, the text the High Court needs to strike down this law:
      “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. ”
      This text copied from the Israeli government site. Clearly “freedom of conscience” is violated by the law,as is “complete equality of social and political rights.” You are not bereft of constitutional text. The path of reply is clear to this safe outsider (me):
      1) The HCJ declares the Declaration a founding, constitutional document.
      2) It strikes down the cvil tort boycott law as repugnant to the above quoted text.
      3) It calls for the Knesset to authorize the election of a Constituent Assembly satisfying this Declaration text:
      “in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948”
      The Constituent Assembly usurped soverignty in 48 by converting itself into the Knesset; the HCJ cannot order a Consitutional Convention, but it can call for one in its decision. These two verbal acts, striking the boycott tort and calling for a Convention (to be arranged, yes, by the Knesset), show that the Court is not usurping power in mirror image of the Knesset, but wants to return to the constitutional process begun in 48.


      I believe in words. I think you are in a better position, ultimately, than you have ever been in. But you will have to fight consistently for the Declaration and a Convention (the latter shows you do not want to control the Israeli polity, but enable it). Instead of lamenting there are too few good Israelis, fight to enable Israelis to decide what they want to be. Easy for me to say, I know. Even so, I actually have hope for Israel again.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Saul Alinsky

      Might it not be a bad idea to encourage legal challenges to the law via the old fashioned art of mockery?

      For example, in lieu of boycotting Ariel for political reasons, why not boycott it because it “smells” or because you find it shitty? The law only prohibits boycotting an area because of its relationship to the state of Israel. On its face the law does not prohibit or give people reason to sue someone who calls for a boycott Tel Aviv, for example because of a lack of shabbat observance.

      And when somebody sues for you calling a place smelly or shitty- you tell the press, you feel like this is an assholish lawsuit.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Sorry to toot my own horn, but I was the first blogger (I think) to violate the new law as soon as the law passed — although I claim that it is not technically a violation because the law is sloppily worded — and I will continue to violate the law on my blog, the Magnes Zionist blog. 972+ reprints some of my stuff, but they won’t reprint some of that stuff because they are nervous. I have no problem with that. They do good work. But I am still waiting for a ad in an Israeli paper, signed by the usual liberal suspects, calling for a boycott.

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    26. In fact, any Israeli who wants to call for a boycott should try submitting a comment to that effect on one of the major Israeli newspaper websites, both Hebrew and English.

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    27. Eitan

      Hi Jerry — first of all, I am a huge admirer of your blog.

      Second, there are a few petitions out there, such as Solidarity’s, in which more than 3,000 people call for a boycott on the settlements.


      Doesn’t this count, or is it only if the same usual suspects take out an expensive ad in the paper?

      Reply to Comment
    28. JON

      It seems that neither of you knows what the purpose of this law or what is its consequences. you cannot viloate the law as it doesn’t forbid anyone to use its right of speech. the law was made to protect any Israeli citizen from the boycott as it said that anyone who calls to boycott Israel, an institue of israel or geographical area of it just because the linkage to it will be subject to a civil lawsuit against him. this law was made to protect anyone who work and live in israel and suffer from this outragoues boycott that tries to de-legitimate the exsistance of Israel as a Jewish country.

      Reply to Comment
    29. JON

      oh and Jerry – don’t brag that you violate the law (even that you know there isn’t any violation of it). if you are so brave, I urge you to do it in your real name.

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    30. Delphine

      Love your writing Joseph, you’re my favorite writer at +972.

      Will Isreali officials really follow through with this law? And how do you think it will affect its relations with the international community? I personally believe this law is a reaction to the international community, and the Isreali community, starting to recognize Palestine but this is only going to backfire on Isreal. Would love to hear your thoughts. Good luck from Kenya and the US!

      Reply to Comment
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