Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why Endorsing Partial Boycotts of Israeli Products, or Even Global Boycotts, Doesn’t Violate the Proposed Anti-Boycott Law

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.

5 comments:

Mark said...

Perhaps you should be boycotting those Kassam rockets your friends continue
to lob into Israel.
Just a thought....

Old Bit-fiddler said...

Perhaps my country should be boycotting those advanced warplanes that Israeli souvenir-makers put on those grotesque tee-shirts that say:
"Don't worry America...Israel is behind you". Showing an American fighter-bomber with Israeli markings. Oh, and leading me, father and father-in-law of US Soldiers (hooah???) to think, "Right...Israel is about 500 or a thousand miles behind my kids. Thanks!"

Meanwhile, if Israelis don;t like the boycott, maybe their government should stop trying to drive Palestinians out of their homes. If Israel does not want to be de-legitimized, maybe the country should stgop behavining in ways that de-ligitimize itself.

How?

OK, a modest start. Roll back and read Martin Buber's essays collected in "A Land of Two Peoples". Read the early '80s collection of essays by Judah Magnes. (It took a long time for anyone to remember Magnes...we had only one volume of memorial essays in my University library 40 yhears ago.)

Next, ask where there might be a "Palestinian Gandhi". Then read Qumsieh.

Consider that his is not simply a debate within the Jewish community in the US. I believe that American Jews will either cheer Israel rigbht off the cliff it has chosen, or ignore Israel.

Meanwhile more and more "mainline Protestant" churches have begun to speak out. See the statement by the United Methodist (UMC) Global Board of Church and Society, which follows decisions by a couple of UMC annual conferences to quit investing in Israel.

The churches speak for social ethics and justice.

Speaking for pure national interest, what does Israel give the US? A migrane? An alliance with a government containing right-wing religious looneys? The pleasure of associating witgh a gang that can't help but call Palestinians "Pals"?

Dan Kelso said...

Mark, ofcourse Mr Haber doesn't say anything about the thousands of Kassams fired into Israel or the hate and incitement to kill Jews in the Abbas media. Read Palmediawatch.
Mr Haber wants the destruction of Israel by flooding Israel with millions of Arabs.
Mr Haber is so crazy he blames Israel for what he calls the 2 Nakbas.
The Arabs leaving Israel in 48 at the calls of the Arab leaders and the Jews leaving the Arab countries in the late 40s.
Perhaps Mr Haber needs a history lesson. On the day that Israel declared its independence in 48, the Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared "jihad", a holy war. He said, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".1 The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini stated, "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"

Dan Kelso said...

Mark, ofcourse Mr Haber says nothing about the thousands of Kassams fired at Israel. Just as Mr Haber says nothing about the hate and incitement to kill Jews in the Abbas media.
Read Palmediawatch.
Mr Haber wants the destruction of Israel by flooding Israel with millions of Arabs.
Mr Haber is so radical he blames Israel for what he calls the 2 Nakbas. The Palestinians leaving Israel in 48 at the calls of the Arab leaders and the Jews leaving the Arab countries in the late 40s.
Mr Haber obviously needs a history lesson.
On the day that Israel declared its independence in 48, the Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared "jihad", a holy war. He said, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".1 The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini stated, "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"

pabelmont said...

On interpreting this law: The problem (altho I love your careful interpretation) is that COURTS and JURIES will interpret it differently. SO SAD. BE WARNED.

For example, many Israelis will doubtless expect that BDS-ing a company located on West Bank, when done by a well-known critic of the occupation, or of the settlements-aspect of the occupation, is an act being done FOR THE REASON that the company is part of the occupation, which is to say, BECAUSE OF ITS ISRAELI CONNECTION.

After all, for many -- too, too, too many -- Israelis, the occupation and the settlements are what it's all about, right? And you know what "it" is. And so will the judges (who want to retain their jobs), etc.

Nice try. Loved it.