Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Israel Anti-Boycott Law Misrepresented by Interested Parties, as ExpectedIsrael's new anti-boycott law does not "criminalize" speech --nor even pro-boycott speech or acts-- as was claimed in a rather overheated reaction by the New Israel Fund. Rather, the law defines pro-boycott agitation as a tort, a civil wrong [in Hebrew `avlah עוולה]. As such, parties injured by a boycott can sue for damages. Moreover, the Israeli government is to withhold state benefits and favors, grants, subsidies, guarantees, etc, from those who practice or advocate a boycott. Hence there is no criminal punishment in the law, no jail sentences; the State of Israel is not "criminalizing" boycotters, as the NIF claimed. It is denying state benefits which it has the right to do to protect the state and people of Israel. [See text of law at link below comments. Hebrew text פה ] Maybe the NIF thought that they could get away with lying about the law, depending on the general ignorance of the Hebrew language.
The NIF has been charged by NGO Monitor with funding pro-boycott activities and advocacy. The NIF itself is funded by --among other bodies-- the Ford Foundation, which in its turn helped to organize and fund participating anti-Israel outfits that created an anti-Israeli hate atmosphere at the racist, Judeophobic Durban "anti-racism" conference which took place in early September 2001, just before the 9-11 tragedy. Among hateful things done at Durban in 2001 was to advocate the BDS strategy against Israel [BDS = boycott, divestment, sanctions].
What does the law do?
1) the law does not restrict free speech except insofar as injured persons or bodies may sue the boycott advocates for damages under the old damages law [neziqin]. Laws in civilized countries restrict free speech, of course, on the grounds of libel which can lead to imposing payment of damages on libellers, as well as on the grounds of incitement to violence, sedition, threats of violence, etc.
2) the law also allows the govt to withhold govt grants, subsidies, or other special state benefits and favors from advocates of the boycott, not including pensions, child allowances, etc.
3) BDS advocacy is treated as a civil offense perhaps warranting damages or withholding of state benefits. It is not treated as a criminal matter. The law does not forbid bds advocacy.
One member of Knesset explained why the law was needed. MK Tsipi Hotobeli said today --in a radio discussion with Uri Avneri, head of the pro-BDS "Gush Shalom" outfit, that it is hard for Israel to denounce and complain about BDS efforts abroad when they are allowed here at home.
Further, those who criticize the law should ask whether the govt should have to pay public money [state benefits-but this does not include pensions or regular social benefits enjoyed by citizens] to those who act against the public interest .
Ironically, those who defend boycott advocacy on the grounds of freedom of speech are themselves guilty of undermining the human rights of others, particularly but not only Jews who live or wish to live in Judea-Samaria. Uri Avneri and "Peace Now" advocate preventing Jews from peacefully migrating to live in Judea-Samaria and advocate boycotting products made by Jewish firms in those areas, firms which hire Arabs as well as Jews.
Those who boycott settlement products because they believe that Jews have no right to live or conduct businesses or manufacturing in Judea-Samaria are taking a racist, apartheid position against Jews. Although they typically justify this position on the grounds of international law, the interpretations of int'l law that they brandish about are false. They typically claim that Geneva Convention IV, article 49, forbids "transfer" of population to "occupied territory." It does. However, recall that Germany, Austria and Japan were avowedly occupied by US, USSR, UK, and France after WW2. Many civilians from the occupying powers voluntarily moved into those countries while they were occupied. Nobody complained that Geneva IV, article 49 [or whatever] forbid these civilians to move into occupied countries. Large parts of Japan are still occupied by Russia, that is, they were annexed in the Soviet Communist days by the USSR, although Japan never recognized that annexation and there is as yet no Russian-Japanese or Soviet-Japanese peace treaty as far as I know. Hundreds of thousands --if not millions-- of Soviets/Russians were moved into these formerly Japanese areas. Nobody gives a damn but the Japanese. Nor is the situation considered a threat to international peace.
Now many of us would argue that Judea-Samaria are not occupied, and this on various grounds [such as the Jewish National Home principle]. Further, "transfer" means compulsory migration, whereas the Jews living in Judea-Samaria were willing migrants. But even if J-S were occupied and even if Geneva IV, 49, applied to voluntary migrants [not persons subject to "transfer"] across the Green Line, the position demanding exclusion of Jews from Judea-Samaria would still be racist. Legal perhaps, but racist against Jews. Since when do advocates of liberty and human rights want to punish people who have flouted restrictive laws [if J-S were occupied and if Geneva IV, 49, applied legally]?? And BDS relies on these false interpretations of law and is a legalist-nativist argument as well, which humanitarians and human rights advocates should eschew. BDS falsely speaks in the name of human rights.
The bds campaign actively tries to prevent people --Jews-- from exercising human rights, the right to live where their long-time enemies don't want them to live. Hence it is BDS that is racist. Racist against Jews. This is the argument that should be made. Heretofore, the Yesha Council, Women in Green, and such groups have NOT been making the right arguments to the world.
Here is an interesting case in which a person who would likely be called "a progressive" sued someone who libelled him, thereby restricting the libeller's freedom of speech and press.
The so-called Association for Civil Rights in Israel [ACRI] issued a position paper against the new law, while NIF has so far just sent around a whining email [their position paper will likely follow soon]. The paper does not mention --probably due to the author's ignorance-- that in the United States a private person was allowed to sue for damages to his work and endeavors caused by libel of the group to which he belonged and in which he was named personally. Libel laws too have "a chilling effect" on freedom of speech. The ACRI paper decries the permission granted by the new law to private persons to sue for damages caused by boycott calls. But a trial was begun on such a matter in the USA. The defendant --who was promoting libel through his newspaper, eventually settled in the plaintiff's favor. This represented a restriction on the defendant's freedom of speech as well as on freedom of the press.
I refer to a suit against Henry Ford by a Jew. In the early 1920s, Ford's newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, worked out its own version of the forged and plagiarized Protocols of the Elders of Zion, also naming individual Jews.
"Aaron Sapiro, a lawyer who was organizing farmers' cooperatives [kind of like a community organizer], sued Mr Ford and his paper for a million dollars on the ground that his valuable work would be ruined by their lies. The trial was begun in Detroit in 1926 but it was never finished because Mr Ford apologized to Aaron Sapiro and to the Jewish people as a whole . . . [Ford] said: 'I deem it to be my duty . . . to make amends for the wrong done to the Jews. . . asking their forgiveness. . .'" [Rabbi Lee Levinger, A History of the Jews in the United States (NY: UAHC 1959), p 358].Henry Ford to be sure was an intense Judeophobe and Nazi sympathizer. He had to produce his own version of the Protocols because --among other things-- the original version was --anti-Roman Catholic & anti-Protestant and sympathetic to the Russian Orthodox Church. The anti-Catholic hate in the original would not have gone down well in the United States.
So, although the libel trial against Ford did not conclude, Sapiro's claim --which restricted Ford's freedom of speech-- was accepted for trial as justiciable. Sapiro did not have to wait for governmental action. Of course the case is not identical. But I think it is rather close to the "private action" that the ACRI paper so deplores. Curiously, the Ford Foundation, founded with Henry Ford's money, works against the Jews as did its namesake, Henry Ford.
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NGO Monitor's comments and translation of the law [here]
Eli Hertz compares the present Israeli anti-boycott law with an American anti-boycott law [here]