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What is +972's stance on BDS?

The simple answer is that we don’t have one. The website is a collective of authors, each of whom have their own opinions about BDS. Some oppose it, some support it; some, like yours truly, support the D but are not particularly fond of the BS. But unfortunately, our ability to freely discuss this key aspect of the fight against the occupation has been severely and deliberately crippled by recent legislation. We may still carry opinions on BDS; but outright calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions hold far too great a risk for our site – a risk we are not in the financial position to take. Since we are legally responsible for all content appearing on the website, this obligates us to erase outright calls, and only outright calls for BDS from the comment thread as well.

Here is how it works: In May 2011, the Knesset passed the notorious “Boycott Law”. The Boycott Law does not make it a criminal offence or even misdemeanour to call for boycott. Neither any of us, nor any of readers will go to jail for making such a call. But the law does allow anyone who feels they have been materially impaired by that hypothetical call to sue us for damages – without actually proving any damages were suffered. In other words, if a reader was to publish a comment explicitly calling for BDS, tomorrow the website could be slammed with a massive lawsuit by some other reader or a right-wing “lawfare” organisaton. Even if we won the case in the long run, the legal fees would have sunk us very quickly – our budget is minimal, not to say minute, and we have no assets we can liquify and throw into the fight.

Considerable consternation and agitation were provoked yesterday, when Lisa wrote:

None of the contributors to this site is permitted to express a position either against or in favour of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement. Since +972 is also responsible for the comments, we delete any mention of BDS in the comment threads.

Thankfully, this is little more than an innocent misinterpretation of our editorial policy. We are not banned from expressing “any position”, and we certainly do not delete “any mention” of BDS. Only outright and explicit calls for boycott, and we do so with a heavy heart. As our managing editor, Shir Harel, wrote on Think Progress a few months ago:

We are proud to be a collective of bloggers whose opinions span the political spectrum, supplemented with a diverse roster of guest contributions. Yet this law has made it impossible for us to maintain an equal platform for everyone to make their argument heard. What’s more, as our website is legally responsible for comments our readers leave, we are now compelled to monitor and edit any comments that voice support for boycotts. We can’t even allow our readers the chance to freely argue back with us.

It may well be argued that by not censoring the anti-boycott voices as well, we are co-opted by the state into lending unfair advantage to BDS opponents. Good point; but I, at least, personally feel that while we are forced to enforce some of the state censorship, there’s no need to be overzealous and amplify this obscene little law by shutting down BDS discussions as a whole.

We allow any and all conversation on BDS, except clear and outright calls for boycott. We do this not because we are keen to enforce any purported interest or policy of this or any government – there is nothing that is more anathema to this website; and not because there is a collective stance on this issue. We do it simply because we don’t want to lend reactionaries an even greater victory by allowing them to sink the entire site.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

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    1. AYLA

      like. (i mean, dislike, but really appreciate the thoughtful clarification, and some transparency on your own views, Dimi).

      Reply to Comment
    2. Consula

      I like how 972 always tries to say that there is debate among the writers of the site whenever this issue comes up. By my estimation, you have two writers (one of which is leaving) who support BDS as the Palestinians have called for it. So you have one writer out of 14 who ‘support bds’. What an amazing range of viewpoints and opinions! Additionally, you have vocal opponents of BDS like Lisa Goldman who will not take a firm position on the issue because they understand how a portion of their audience will stop reading the site. Don’t be afraid of your opinions and don’t conceal them. Just be honest 972!

      Reply to Comment
      • Consula: Read these words out loud and listen very carefully, okay? “Lisa Goldman is not an opponent of BDS. Nor is Lisa Goldman an advocate of BDS.”

        And don’t ever, ever decide on my behalf what my opinions are again.

        Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      Has this law been upheld by the courts in a test case? Has no one tested it?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Witty

      It is necessary for 972 to effectively object to the law, to work for its repeal.

      Freedom of speech is critical in a democracy.

      There are many boycotts of much more limited scope, around issues that don’t relate to Israel/Palestine questions, that are allowed to be advocated for.

      There is an organized boycott of non-kosher food by haredi and orthodox. There is an organized boycott of firms that remain open on Shabbas.

      There are some organized boycotts by Israelis and by Palestinians of businesses that are multi-culturally owned.

      The boycott of those firms does exert a negative financial affect on them.

      There are many potential test cases that can be chosen without glaring fundamental political threats associated.

      Reply to Comment
    5. AYLA

      Aristeides–it’s a relatively new law–one that should be fought loudly–in a long line of recent legislation and policy that seems to be falling on a numb/deaf Israeli ears. However, there is no question that it would just take some right wing internet troll (of which there are many here) to find something, take it to the government, and get 972 shut down. All you have to do is pay attention to the way things work in this country to trust this.

      Reply to Comment
    6. aristeides

      Now I’m speaking as an American, but here, the way to challenge such a law is to set up a test case. Some organization would fund it, ready to pay the fine if the test failed in the courts.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Interesting article which I fully appreciate and understand although I am slightly critical of it.

      I have taken the liberty of writing a response to it if anybody wishes to see it (there still requires a lot of editing before i publish it properly) feel free to get in touch with me!

      Reply to Comment
    8. AYLA

      @Aristeides–is the U.S., then you would take the case to the state and then supreme court and attempt to get the law overturned, right? Wouldn’t work here. I’m not saying that nothing can be done, but as far as I can tell (the more informed can feel free to correct me), that won’t work. Step One: getting people to give a sh*t.
      @Consula: I can certainly understand why most Palestinians are simply pro-BDS, when there is so little other recourse. Please accept, however, that many people who follow this conflict closely, certainly including journalists, feel that blanket-BDS is not actually the most effective action toward ending the occupation. That does not mean that those same people don’t support any actions that fall under the BDS umbrella. For you, it may be all or nothing, but BDS casts a very wide net. Apparently, Amira Hass is one of the people breaking the BDS issues down; did you listen to either of those videos? Do you really want to be like George W. Bush and say: you’re either with us, or against us?

      Reply to Comment
    9. aristeides

      In the US, you would violate the law and be charged for it, hoping the courts would overturn the law.

      Of course, you also take the chance of going to jail. That’s not the case with the BDS law, in which the consequence is bankruptcy. What I don’t know is whether anyone has taken this route of resistance.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Sharonne

      Thank you Dimi, for clarifying many points that become so murky after traveling half way around the world. I, and I’m sure many others, really appreciate and love such clear and honest explanations. If only world politicians would do the same.

      Reply to Comment
    11. AYLA

      @Aristeides–you’re making two faulty assumptions (both that I would have made before living here): 1) that this is a democracy. 2. That the courts aren’t highly corrupt.
      I’m sure that Israelis still hear plenty of my suggestions today as I am hearing yours.
      In any case, 972 shouldn’t be the test case, unless they come into a windfall.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Mikesailor

      Ayla: I agree that the idea of a ‘test case’ would probably not work in Israel for the reasons you have so ably stated. The consequences of losing such a case is prohibitive. My question would be for members of the so-called Israeli Bar: Why hasn’t any Israeli lawyer requested a declaratory judgment from the Israeli courts concerning either the overreach of the law, or its vagueness, or its ‘chilling effect’ on free speech. Are all Israeli lawyers cowards?

      Reply to Comment
    13. aristeides

      Ayla, I never suggested that +972 test the law. I never suggested that ANYONE in Israel should test the law. I asked if this had taken place and wondered, if not, the reason.

      My understanding is that Israel’s High Court is considered relatively free from corruption. But can they rule in a civil case like the BDS law allows? It was really quite devious of the law’s advocates to frame it in this way. I noticed recently that the AG declared he would refuse to prosecute under some of the other proposed democratic laws the Knesset is considering. But in a civil case, all you need is a zealous lawyer, which I suspect is not difficult to find there.

      Reply to Comment
    14. AYLA

      @Aristiedes: I don’t know.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Piotr Berman

      “that it would just take some right wing internet troll (of which there are many here) to find something, take it to the government, and get 972 shut down.”

      If I understand the law, it is not that simple. The law does not give explicit powers to the State, but to private citizens and companies. I am ignorant of details but I think that while prove of damages is unnecessary, at least damages should be somewhat plausible. That would require someone who produces goods that are of some remote interest to the audience of 972mag.

      Here is the rub: even mere lawsuit, without going to the court, would give a lot of publicity to the company. But would it be a good kind or bad kind? Wasn’t Bank Leumi who decided that redoubled enthusiasm of right wing customers is not worth alienation of not-so-right.

      But say that a winery with label “This is high quality very, very kosher wine proudly made in Yudea and Samaria (or is it Simeon? it is very confusing, but buy it to support the occupation)” will sue. The strategic goal would be to goad the courts to throw out the case to collect another example of intolerable bias of the courts, to “reform” that situation.

      Reply to Comment