For some time I have been waiting for the Anti-boycott Bill to pass on its second and third parliamentary readings so I could be one of the first to violate this ridiculous infringement of free speech as an act of civil disobedience.
Yet having read the current version of the bill, I find that violating it won't be easy. In fact, I can't do it.
You see, I thought that the bill outlawed, for example, calling for boycotts against Israeli companies. But that can't be right because a successful boycott against cottage cheese recently caused companies to lower the price. So according to the law, there is nothing wrong about supporting a boycott of an Israeli company, as long as you do it for the legitimate reasons.
But what are the illegitimate reasons?
Say I don't want people to buy B & B pretzels because I happen to be connected with their competitor, Osem. So I say, "Don't buy B & B pretzels." And B & B pretzels happen to be manufactured on the West Bank. Does that make me culpable, i.e., liable to some suit, according to the new law?
Not really. The Anti-boycott Bill says,
In this bill, "a boycott against the State of Israel" [means] deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another party only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.
At first glance, that seems to be saying that I can't call for a boycott of products originating from the West Bank, an area under the State of Israel's control. So I can't call for a boycott of B & B Pretzels.
But the operative clause is "only because of [the company's] ties with [the West Bank]. " And, frankly, I don't think B & B should be boycotted only because it is located on the West Bank. For if it were a Palestinian company, of were Israel licensing the rights to operate the company from the Palestinians, I wouldn't be boycotting it. It's not the geography that concerns me, it is the fact that the company is built illegally on Palestinian land and hence should be boycotted. Had the law said, "only because of its ties with the State of Israel's policy of confiscating lands" that may capture better my motivation.
And the same thing within Israel, proper. Say I support the boycott of Sabra Humus and publicly endorse it on this blog. If I do it as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian students at Princeton, then I can't be said to boycott it solely because it is made in Israel.
But what if I call for a boycott of all Israeli products, or endorse the global BDS movement. Surely, the intent of the law is to prevent such blanket endorsements? But the law doesn't say it; it simply says you can't call for a boycott of a product simply because it is made in Israel. And even the BDS movement doesn't cite "being made in Israel" as the motivation of the boycott, but rather, the desire to hold Israel to the standard of decent nations.
And now I understand the crazy reasoning behind those who framed the law. You see, they thought that the purpose of the global BDS movement, or the targeted BDS movement, limiting it to the occupied territories, is to destroy Israel. If that is the purpose then it makes sense to say that anybody who calls for a boycott of Israeli products simply because they are made in Israel or the territories is liable to suits, punishments. But that's not their purpose of the global BDS movement, and they don't say that it is.
Ditto for the cultural boycott. If I call on artists not to appear in the theater in Ariel, it's not because the theater is located in Ariel, which is in the West Bank;. It is because Ariel and the other illegal cities and settlements directly benefit from the occupation. Were Israel to change its policies and end the occupation, I would end my call for a boycott. The global BDS movement has higher requirements but they certainly fall short of calling for the end of the Israeli state.
Heck, the international sanctions against Iran don't aim to destroy the country, but to get the government to fulfill their international obligations.
So I would like to go on to record, as I issue my call for boycotting the companies that profit from the occupation, that I do not intend to violate the new boycott law, should it pass.. I am not calling to boycott these companies "only" because they are in the West Bank or Israel proper.
I have other reasons.
And here's a useful website that contains of some of those companies.