A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anti-Defamation League Criticizes Israeli Anti-Boycott Law

The Anti-Defamation League, in a rare criticism of Israel, has expressed concern that Israel's new "Anti-Boycott Law" could threaten basic democratic rights. A statement by ADL Director Abraham Foxman said the following:
The Anti-Defamation League has a long history of vigorous opposition to any and all boycotts of Israel, and works every day to expose and combat those who seek to cause damage to the Jewish state.  We are, however, concerned that this law may unduly impinge on the basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Among Israel's many assets is its vibrant democracy – a fact clearly supported by the six-plus hour debate of this bill in the Knesset.  To legally stifle calls to action – however abhorrent and detrimental they might be – is a disservice to Israeli society.  We hope Israel's Supreme Court will quickly take up a review of this law and resolve the concerns it raises.
The new law, which allows private individuals to bring suit against anyone calling for a boycott of Israel or of the settlements and their products, had been controversial within Israel; even Prime Minister Netanyahu absented himself from the vote. More on the law here. Bradley Burston in Ha'aretz, admittedly a voice from the left, is downright alarmist:
This is the one. Don't let what we like to call the relative calm here, fool you. When the Knesset passed the boycott law Monday night, it changed the history of the state of Israel.
In real time, a tipping point of great magnitude can sound a lot like nothing at all. But if the Boycott Law makes it past challenges filed by human rights and pro-peace organizations in Israel's High Court of Justice, then anything goes, beginning with democracy itself.
The law will of course be challenged in the courts.

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