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 This piece, written in April, would not be published in the current climate.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.