American Jewry is only beginning to wake up to the idea that Israel has marched much farther to the right than it ever imagined possible. Peter Beinart noted it, but Abe Foxman didn't get the message, and Beinart called him on that. See here. Every other week, it seems, the Knesset proposes another bill violating civil liberties. And these bills are not just the brainchildren of ultra-nationalists – well, until you realize that all of Israel to the right of Meretz is "ultra-nationalist"
Sydney Levy of Jewish Voices for Peace wrote up the latest travesty on the Only Democracy in the Middle East website. (This, by the way, is a very good website for monitoring the decline of Israeli democracy.)
What is Israel's reaction to the growing nonviolent movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions? Well criminalize it, of course!
We just learned that a new bill has been introduced in the Israeli Knesset by 25 Knesset members that would criminalize all BDS activities or even BDS advocacy inside or outside Israel. You can find info about this in English here and with more detail in Hebrew here.
The proposed bill would target those that initiate, encourage, or provide assistance or information about boycotts against Israel.
- Israeli citizens or residents of Israel could be sued by whoever was harmed by the boycott and would have to pay up to 30,000 shekels in restitution and an additional amount according to the harm established by the Israeli courts.
This provision would endanger the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, New Profile, Boycott from Within, among others.
- Those that are neither citizens nor residents of Israel would lose the ability of entering Israel for at least ten years and would be forbidden from economic activity in Israel (holding an account in an Israeli bank, owning Israeli stocks, land, or any other good that requires registration.)
It is not clear whether this provision would apply also to entry into the West Bank, although Prof. Noam Chomsky's denial of entry may be a sign of things to come.
- A group in a foreign country would also be forbidden from economic activism in Israel. This would apply to the Palestinian Authority as well.
In the case of the PA, Israel would freeze transfer of money it owes and would use it to pay restitution to those harmed in Israel.
If, as an Israeli citizen, I sign a petition calling for a boycott of Golan Wines, I can be sued by the Golan wine companies for losses. If I publicize and support Gush Shalom's list of settlement goods to boycott, I can be sued. I suppose if I convince Elvis Costello to cancel his appearances in Israel, I can be sued by irate ticket holders.
If, as a foreigner, I call for a boycott or divestment I can be barred from Israel for that reason alone.
The worse, of course is no. 3 The Palestinian Authority is now urging Palestinians to boycott goods manufactured by the settlers, i.e., the guys who stole and live off their land. This is hurting the settlers' economy. So the settlers had the bright idea that some of the Palestinian tax money that is collected for the PA by Israel will compensate for that loss. You guys don't want to pay money for our products? You will pay money for them even without getting them.
When Israel feels its security threatened by the Palestinians, it has a vast array of economic weapons at its disposal, from boycotts, to closures, to intimidations. But when the Palestinians feel threaten, what can they do?
What is the answer? Not peace. For a peace between Israel and Palestine with the present imbalance of power, in which one is still in a very vulnerable position, will invite this sort of economic warfare. No, what is necessary is strengthening the Palestinian side so that its power will be on a par with Israel's – economically and militarily. Then neither side will find it to its advantage to hurt the other side. (And presumably, the benefits of cooperation will also be felt.)
I should not that this bill is supported by the ultra-nationalist centrist parties and will pass. I heard it reported on the radio with nary a note of criticism.
But…far be it from me to end before Shabbat and Rosh Hodesh on a bad note. Today's Haaretz carried a petition criticizing the Israeli demonization of human rights NGOs, both inside and outside Israel. Many of the signatories were the usual liberal Zionists, but some, like Prof. Yedidya Stern of Bar Ilan University, are straight in the center of the political map.