Table of Contents
On Monday, July 11, the Knesset passed the “anti-boycott” bill, which allows “citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control.”
As explained below, NGO Monitor does not see this legislation as the appropriate means to combat the BDS movement. However, numerous NGOs have released misleading and false statements about the new law, including the New Israel Fund, which wrongly claimed that the bill “criminalizes freedom of speech,” and Gush Shalom, which says the law is “a death sentence for the right to freedom of expression.”
The anti-boycott law does not specifically address boycotts of “settlements;” it is meant to address calls for boycotts anywhere in and against Israel. The global BDS movement targets all of Israel, even within the Green Line, and explicitly rejects the existence of Israel within any borders.
The intense public debate and discussion about the new law is indicative of the strength and vibrancy of Israeli democracy, not its decline, as many political advocacy NGOs have claimed. These same NGOs are preparing to challenge the new law in the Israeli courts, another sign of a strong democracy. Furthermore, those NGOs could have lobbied MKs and presented alternatives, in order to stop the bill. Instead, they spend more time and resources lobbying European Parliaments in opposing Israeli government policy.
In addition, the intense attention from both NGOs and media regarding the new law again demonstrates an obsession and disproportionate focus on Israel. Human Rights Watch (HRW), for example, within hours of the bill’s passage, released a statement attacking the bill. In contrast, it took the organization nearly a week to comment on the April 7 murder of an Israeli boy on a school bus targeted by a laser-guided Hamas rocket. And HRW and other NGOs continue to underreport the atrocities in Libya, Syria, North Korea, and other totalitarian regimes in the region.
- The “Anti-Boycott bill” (MK Ze’ev Elkin – Likud), that passed into law on Monday, July 11, allows “citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control.”
- NGO Monitor is concerned this new law is counterproductive, not the most appropriate framework, and will only polarize important discussions regarding the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The law will not shed light or encourage informed criticism on the NGOs and their foreign government funders that lead most BDS campaigns.
- Regarding other legislation in June 2011 dealing with foreign government NGO funding – MK Ofir Akunis’s (Likud) bill on limiting foreign government donations to NGOs and MK Faina Kirschenbaum’s (Israel Beiteinu) bill to revoke NGO tax-free status on donations from foreign entities – Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, stated, “However, the answer to this challenge [NGO use of foreign government funding] is not to curtail NGOs’ freedom of expression…Israel’s vibrant democracy does not merely survive criticism, it thrives and is improved by it, especially when much of this ‘criticism’ can be exposed for what it really is: disingenuous and ideologically motivated propaganda.”
- In February 2011, the Knesset adopted the NGO Funding Transparency Law (MK Ze’ev Elkin – Likud). The objective of this law is to provide Israeli democracy and civil society with the information necessary to assess the extent and impact of secret foreign government funding for a narrow group of political advocacy NGOs, some of which promote boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Many of the NGOs that referred to the anti-boycott law as anti-democratic used the same language regarding the NGO Transparency Law.
- Both the secrecy of these funding procedures and the manipulation of civil society by external groups and governments violate the accepted norms and practices among sovereign democratic nations.
- There is deep concern among Israel’s democratically elected representatives regarding foreign government funding of political advocacy NGOs that are centrally involved in delegitimization campaigns. This concern is also reflected consistently in public opinion polls.
- The “Anti-Boycott Law,” and other legislation regarding foreign government funding of NGOs, is a response to the absence of basic policy changes among the European governments that are responsible for supporting the BDS movement.
Translation of the Bill
(unofficial translation by NGO Monitor)
1. In this law, “boycott of the State of Israel” – deliberate abstention from economic, cultural or academic ties with a person or with another body, only due to their affinity to the State of Israel, its institutions or an area that is under its control, in such a way that may harm him economically, culturally or academically.
Boycott – a civil wrong
2. (a) He who knowingly publicizes a public call for boycotting the State of Israel, and according to the content of the call and the circumstances in which it has been publicized there is a reasonable possibility that the call will lead to the imposition of a boycott, and the he who published the call was aware of this possibility, does a civil wrong and civil tort law [new version] will be applied to him.
(b) With regard to clause 62 [A] of the civil tort law [new version], he who causes a binding legal agreement to be breached by calling for a boycott against the State of Israel will not be viewed as someone who operated with sufficient justification.
(c) If the court finds that a civil wrong according to this law was intentionally carried out, the court is authorized to charge the civil wrongdoer with the payment of compensations that are not dependant on the damage (in this clause – damages for example); when determining the amount of damages for example, the court will take in to account, among others, the circumstances in which the civil wrong had been carried out, its severity and its scope.
Regulations pertaining to limitation on participation in tenders
3. The Finance Minister with the consent of the Minister of Justice and with the approval of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset, is authorized to set regulations as to the limitation of the participation in a tender, of he who knowingly publicized a public call for boycotting the State of Israel or he who has promised to participate in such a boycott, including pledging not to acquire products or services that are produced or provided in the State of Israel, one of its institutions or in an area that is under its control; in this clause “tender” – a tender that needs to be held according to the Law of Requirement for Tenders 1992.
Regulations pertaining to the suspension of benefits
4. The Finance Minister, in consultation with the Minister of Justice, is permitted to decide concerning someone who has knowingly publicized a public call for imposing a boycott on the State of Israel or he who has committed to participate in such a boycott, that:
(1) He will not be considered a public institution with regard to clause 46 of the income tax ordinance;
(2) He will not be eligible to receive funds from the Council for the Regulation of Gambling in Sports according to clause 9 of the law on Regulation of Gambling in Sports 1967; implementing the authority according to this clause requires the approval of the Minister of Culture and Sports;
(3) He will not be considered a public institution according to clause 3a of the Budget Foundations Law 1985 with regard to receiving support according to a budgetary clause; implementing the authority according to this clause requires the approval of the minister that has been assigned responsibility by the government for that budgetary clause, as stated in paragraph (2) above of the definition “person responsible for a budgetary clause” in the aforesaid law;
(4) He will not be eligible for a guarantee according to the Law of Guarantees on behalf of the State 1958.
(5) He will not be entitled to benefits according to the Law for Encouraging Capital Investments – 1959 or according to the Law for Encouraging Research and Development in Industry 1984; implementing the authority according to this clause requires the approval of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Employment.”
5. The Minister of Justice is appointed to implement this law.
- Middle East Media Sampler #6 Daniel Goldstein, IDC Gloria Center, July 14, 2011
- Strike Down the Anti-Boycott Law, Totally Jewish, July 14, 2011
- Backlash as Israel gags boycotters, Simon Rocker and Anshel Pfeffer, The Jewish Chronicle, July 14, 2011
- Gush Shalom: Boycott Law ‘death’ of freedom of expression, Lahav Harkov and Joanna Paraszczuk, The Jerusalem Post, July 13, 2011
- Knesset votes in favor of ‘boycott bill’, Moran Azulay, Ynet, July 11, 2011
- Netanyahu defends anti-boycott law, JTA, July 13, 2011
- Dozens of Israeli law professors protest ‘unconstitutional’ boycott law, Tomer Zarchin and Jonathan Lis, Haaretz, July 14, 2011
- Israel’s New Anti-Boycott Law Seen in Personal Terms, Daniel Estrin, Jewish Daily Forward, July 14, 2011
- Attorney general to defend boycott law in High Court, Joanna Parasczcuk, The Jerusalem Post, July 13, 2011
- The Cry of the Center, Ben-Dror Yemini, Maariv, July 19, 2011 (Hebrew)
- ‘Sane Zionism’ needs the Left’s support, Evelyn Gordon, The Jerusalem Post, July 18, 2011
- The Knesset’s boycott boomerang, Jonathan Rynhold, The Jerusalem Post July 18, 2011
- Israel’s boycott law is constitutional, Karni Eldad, Haaretz July 18, 2011
- Does the new anti-boycott law harm free speech? Eugene Kontorovich, The Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2011
- Oh, the Shame of it, Reuven Rivlin, Haaretz, July 14, 2011 (Hebrew)
- The Knesset and High Court of Justice have lost all restraint, Ben-Dror Yemini, Maariv, July 14, 2011 (Hebrew)
- Boycott Bill and BDS Nathalie Rothschild, Ynet, July 13, 2011
- The Boycott law: Where do you draw the line? , Ben Caspit, Maariv, July 12, 2011 (Hebrew)
- The Boycott law: The Dark Day, Amnon Rubenstein, Maariv, July 12, 2011 (Hebrew)