Friday, June 11, 2010

Dont’ Buy Golan Wines…and Sue Me

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

For example:

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.


Anonymous said...

Following the Anat Kamm - Uri Blau affair several MK's openly called for boycotting Haaretz newspaper. Can they be sued according to this newly proposed law? Well, I guess they will enjoy immunity (unless revoked). Well - there were other groups (Im Tirzu?) who joined the call for boycott.

pabelmont said...

USA has a law (or laws) making support for boycotts against Israel (but, I believe, only against Israel) either criminal offences or subjecting the boycotter to civil penalties. Bad in any case.

Now if MZ boycotts products produced by Israeli companies operating in the OPT, one wonders if he falls within the USA's anti-boycott law(s).

I have asked my legislators (including that star of the firmament Sen. Schumer) to annul the USA's anti-boycott-of-Israel laws. I haven't heard back/

Anonymous said...

Greetings -


Until now I was of an opinion that you are just another bitter mediocre academic whose professional life has been a long stretch of failures (save for getting tenure, not Ivy League though) and who took to blogging to vent his anger. But after reading your latest posting I had to change my mind. Anyone with a semblance of logical thinking would not have written such gibberish. Civilized countries protect themselves and their citizens’ interests, including commercial ones. Their governments, law making bodies, courts etc function in the interests of their citizens and not in the interests of people aiming to harm them.

I therefore propose to establish an annual prize for the most idiotic statement made by an Israeli academic. Nominations will be open to the general public. Winners will be publicized in leading Israeli dailies and their faculties presented with commemorative plaques noting their university’s achievement in promoting degeneration of cognitive abilities amongst staff members and general public.

If you would be so kind to accept - I would like to nominate you for this year’s award.

Whether you choose to accept or decline this nomination kindly respond with a posting on your blog.

And PLEASE, PLEASE – no more typos. It makes whatever you write sound more intelligent, which could seriously jeopardize your chances of winning.

Have a pleasant Shabbat and Rosh Hodesh. Looking forward to more stupidities in the new month.

Eric said...

But one can use the settler's own list of goods and publish it with out specifically saying boycott.

Jerry Haber said...


From what I have been told you are mistaken.

The US has no laws forbidding American companies to boycott Israel in a boycott that originates domestically.

The US has a law on the books from 1977 that forbids US businesses with complying with non-authorized foreign boycotts. This was in response to the Arab boycott. A US company could not enter in a ocmmercial agreement with another company that included its compliance with the Arab boycott.

I dont' know whether the reference to the American antiboycott in the Israel law shows the ignorance or deceit of the framers. Zev Elkin is smart enough for me to conclude that he is engaged in deception rather than ignorance. But one never knows

Jerry Haber said...

anonymous with the nasty comment,

you're the guy who is reading my blog.

Jerry Haber said...

Oh, and anonymous with the nasty comment,

Show me another "civilized country" with an antiboycott law like the one proposed by Israel.

How about all those US laws that prohibit its citizens from calling for boycotts of companies that outsource to countries where works are underpaid. ( there are none.)

Show me another "civilized" country which makes it a criminal offense for an academic to endorse an academic boycott of his country.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the other Anonymous, the one who isn't nasty but keeps asking you why you always ascribe the worst motives to Israel. Can you tell us, Jerry, what other "civilized" country has to deal with the type of attempted boycotts and sanctions that Israel does?

I mean, the US is a "civilized" country, n'est ce pas? It's been engaged in two wars on foreign soil for years; civilians have been killed accidentally; national infrastructures have been broken; there is "occupation" that doesn't seem to have an end-date...

And yet, no boycott or academics calling for a boycott.

No boycott of England for participating in the same wars.

Heck, the "civilized" nations seem to have trouble putting together a boycott of Iran. Any scholars out there trying to boycott Iran?

How about academic boycotts of Sri Lanka which had no compunction about annihilating their non-state enemy.


I have to see how this bill plays out before commenting on it, and it may be that it is overzealous, but as you know since you support boycotts of Israel and are all for erasing Israel's "original sin," as one of the MKs said in supporting this bill, the boycotts may be an existential issue for Israel.

How does one deal with existential problems, Magnes Zionist?

Anonymous said...

It seems that the U.S. and Israel are the ones who decide which countries or actions are 'civilized' or not. Why compare Israel with the U.S. or England, and not Iran? It is much closer in status to Iran.

The U.S. is an imperial superpower and as such gets to decide whom should be shunned or attacked and whom protected. (see UN resolutions) How many military bases do Israel or Iran have around the world? Proxies and advisers maybe, but not official military bases on foreign soil.

If anything, the law is a reflection of Israel's weakness of legitimacy self-assurance more than a real protection against existential threat. Unfortunately, it will only erode it's legitimacy further.

Or perhaps as you would have it, it's the mean bloggers and activists picking on Israel that harms it more than its own ridiculous and oppressive actions. The State of Israel must start taking some responsibility for its policies and actions if it is to become a mature and stable nation-state. Unfortunately, the U.S. is exempt from this for now.

Y. Ben-David said...

Once again, the old canard about "stolen Arab land" in Judea/Samaria (the "West Bank"). WHAT ABOUT STOLEN ARAB LAND THAT "PROGRESSIVES" TOOK? Tel Aviv University is sitting on the land of the pre-1948 Arab village of Sheikh Munis. The Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University is sitting on land that belonged to the pre-1948 Arab village of Sheikh Badr (ironically, the Har Hatzofim-Mt Scopus campus of HU, although over the holy Green Line is on Jewish-owned land!).
Many "progressive" professors at these insitutions live in Ramat Aviv, the German Colony, Baka etc which are also pre-1948 Arab lands. So instead of carrying out ineffective boycotts in order to salve their conciences (do you really think the Jews will leave Judea/Samaria because of these boycotts?) I recommend they track down the former owners of these lands and give them back to them and NOT to wait for a "peace agreement" that may never come.
Jerry-you yourself have repeatedlyl stated that the whole Zionist enterprise is immoral, the Arabs had every right to start the war they lost in 1948 which led to them losing those lands, so there is no basis for saying that that Beit El is "stolen" and Tel Aviv U is not, other than your own personal whims which you have never adequately explained to me. Just because YOU think it is "reasonable" for the Arabs to give up their claims to Sheikh Munis doesn't mean THEY agree and you yourself gave the justification for their views.

Anonymous said...

jerry must have slept through the passage of the patriot act.

he also missed when a group of congressmen and senators proposed a bill to remove citizenship from those charged (not convicted...charged) with a terrorist act.

jerry...if israel is no longer a democratic government, then america is a downright fascist state.

and im sorry jerry, but when one enters israel, one has to state on the visa application the purpose of entering. and most foreign nationals who end up working with groups like the ism....lie

that should be enough to boot them from the country...and keep them out.

not sure why another law has to be written to enforce that.

for example, Emily Henochowicz, you know, the peace lover who lost an eye during a peaceful protest where members were throwing rocks...she entered the country on a student visa. the second she joined the ism and started participating in protests on the west bank, she should have been barred from returning to the country. she wasnt....that isnt democracy...thats plain dumb.

it has nothing to do with israel being strong enough to accept has to do with a country having the right to allow entry to whom it wants. and when you choose to be a guest of a country, and then spit on the floor...expect to get spanked.

in fact...i think israel should write its laws regarding foreign nationals being allowed to stay in the country, based on your pal richard's blog rules.

Jerry Haber said...

anonymous, the patriot act is a travesty, and thank God it will be undone over time.

The good news about America is that eight years after the national nightmare of george w bush, the country woke up and sent the neocons to fox news and think tank hell.

the unfortunate thing about israel is that it has had sixty three years (minus 1993 and 1994, arguably) of george w bush's policies with no end in sight.

folks like you say, "Well, that's the price you pay for a jewish state." And folks like me say, "What decent human being and/or Jew would pay that sort of price -- a price that no Zionist ever thought (or at least said) would have to be paid!

This is the fundamental disagreement. If the 1948 is an absolute value in your eyes, as it is for many jews, then if it would be necessary to herd Palestinians in concentration camps and gas them, you would do it. Of course, neither you nor I can envision that necessity. But one simply has no red lines when something is accepted as an absolute value.

The only time the right criticizes the state is when it doesn't take enough land, or when it talks about giving it up. I am not saying that the right worships the state; the religious right, on the contrary , can be opposed to the state on many issues. But push comes to shove, the religious right has no red lines. The whole thing is ours; you want it, tough luck.

Y. Ben David, we have discussed Sheikh Munis before. You know the liberal Zionist response. You know the problems with it. For you all of Eretz Yisrael belongs to us, and goyyim have no property rights. So if settlements like Tekoa are on private land, big deal. Maybe the government will retroactively give some shekels to the folks who claim ownership. That goes against Israeli law, but hey, what the heck is law when we are talking about geulat karka. For you, a ganif who stops stealing and talks about trying to make a deal with his victim is a hypocrite. That's an interesting view of life.

Y. Ben-David said...

I am talking about how the ARABS see them, you "2-staters" are like a thief who steals 100 dollars and then turns around and says, "I have done teshuva and feel morally obligated to return 20 dollars to you, but I expect you to let me keep the rest because I believe that is reasonable because I have a lot of expenses. I am sure you will understand".
Is that JUSTICE in the eyes of the victim, as he sees it?
I am not justifying the Arab position (BTW-please do not put words in my mouth saying I approve of stealing private Arab land in Judea/Samaria, I don't, but the legal situation there is often unclear)

The bottom line is what I am saying is that your "liberal" line on the 2-state solution does NOT provide Justice as the Arabs see it...they see YOU as the hypocrite. You claim it is reasonable to return the $20 and to be satisfied with that, I say they will never accept that, on their terms.

Devir said...

"Anonimous with the nasty comment" got it all wrong. He said: "Their governments... etc function in the interests of their citizens and not in the interests of people aiming to harm them." I know the comparison is becoming a cliché but, nevertheless, it is valid, to some extent. The BDS movement ( including in culture and sports ) aimed to isolate the apartheid regime, not southafricans ( black or whites ) as such. And ,complemented by other actions, it worked! Present day South African is undoubtedly a much more ethical, inclusive and democratic country! The BDS movement will ultimately suit the interests of israelis without leaving the palestineans apart. It will just be against the interests of the zionist régime.
Israel claims to be a democracy. Ancient Greece, where it all begun, also claimed to be one but it left slaves apart...
The people who clame BDS is bad to Israel are showing that, in their minds, the two ( Israel and zionism ) cannot be separated.
And are displaying a strange notion of patriotism.
An healthy patriot ( not a sick chauvinist nationalist ) rather wants his/her country to be loved and respected than hated or feared.
An healthy patriot wants his/her country to improve and therefore he/she must expose its crimes and wrongdoings, not hide or justify them.
An healthy love for one's coutry does not mean necessarily hatred onto other people's countries.
Decent. "Decent" is the key-word.
Israel will be nothing but a rogue-state until it treats its neighbours decently...
From Luís ( whose country, Portugal, ceased to endure a fascist/colonialist régime in 1974 )