Middle East

Israeli press blast boycott law

The West Bank settlement of Ariel
Image caption The new law will punish any Israeli individual boycotting West Bank settlements

The Israeli Knesset's passing of a controversial law penalising anyone calling for a boycott of the country or its settlements has been the subject of much debate in the Israeli press.

One paper sympathetic to PM Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that the law was timely, but two prominent dailies suggested that - far from protecting Israel - MK Zeev Elkin's law would only play into the hands of the country's enemies.

Other commentators condemned the new law outright as "undemocratic", while one wondered why the prime minister did not take part in the vote.

Haim Shine in free, pro-Netanyahu Yisrael Hayom

A small minority group in Israel that had despaired of winning the elections has decided to act through subversive methods like promoting an agenda of encouraging the imposition of boycotts. [Israeli peace activists] boycott soldiers who defend the right of peace activists to live in a free, democratic state... The Boycott Law is something timely. A country that respects itself cannot allow subversive activity.

Editorial in English-language Jerusalem Post

While we empathize with Elkin and other lawmakers' protective instinct vis-a-vis the Jewish state... Civil society has an inalienable right to organise peacefully and to use its buying power or freedom of association to further political objectives, whether it be grassroots protest against the high price of cottage cheese... rabbis' calls to 'boycott' potential Arab house-buyers in Jewish neighbourhoods, or left-wing opposition to the government's settlement policy... Attempts to legitimise the Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem [the West Bank] through the stifling of criticism may just achieve the opposite.

Amnon Rubinstein in centrist Ma'ariv

The first question to be asked in relation to the Boycott Law is whom this law will help? And the answer is: Israel's enemies... This law will serve as a weapon in the hands of those who claim that Israel is not democratic and does not observe human rights and will increase Israel's isolation in both the academic world and also among the liberal democracies of the West. Paradoxically, this law increases the danger of boycott of Israel and this is the opposite of what Israel needs these days.

Nahum Barnea in centrist, mass circulation Yediot Aharonot

The law is bad. In a clever trick reminding one of dark regimes it turns only against he who calls for a boycott on a geographical basis. Rightwing activists who walk around in demonstrations with t-shirts bearing the inscription 'I only buy from Jews' are exempt from punishment. Also exempt from punishment are the rabbis who call for not renting houses to Arabs... The right has dug a well into which it may itself fall.

Editorial in left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha'aretz

It is couched in vague language... This vagueness is intentional, designed to conceal the goal of spreading a wide protective net over the settlements, whose products, activities and in fact very existence are the main reason for the boycott initiatives, both domestic and foreign... Knesset members who vote for this law must understand that they are supporting the gagging of protests as part of an ongoing effort to liquidate democracy.

Avirama Golan in left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha'aretz

Israel's image is a truly trivial issue compared to the process of change being wrought in Israeli society by the cabal of Yisrael Beitenu, extremist rabbis and Kahanists. This process is crudely erasing entire entries from the democratic dictionary, and in their place - via a series of focused laws with intentionally vague wording - it is putting blatantly totalitarian values. The Boycott Law is just one step in this process.

Gershon Baskin in English-language The Jerusalem Post

The legislative agenda of this Knesset, sponsored by this government and promoted by hate and fear mongers, is further evidence that Israel is digging its heels in against a current whose strength is increasing. The 'Nakba Law,' the allegiance oath, the Anti-political NGO laws, the Anti-boycott Law - all these are symptoms of a society which has lost control of its own sense of legitimacy, and therefore uses a temporary coalition majority to impose limits on its own democracy in order to create a facade of strength and determination.

Dimi Reider in independent blog-based web magazine +972

This is the first of an entire barrage of anti-democratic bills being pushed for legislation that actually went through. Tonight may be the night when the coalition, up to and including its wackiest members, will finally realise it is in power, it is in control - and the parliamentary left can do very little to stop them.

Yossi Verter in left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha'aretz

From today, it is permissible in the State of Israel to boycott dairy farms, food chains... airlines that fly on the Sabbath, delicatessens that sell pork, Arabs who want to rent flats - only not the settlements. The Knesset disguised itself yesterday as the Yesha settler council and approved the Boycott Banning Law, another law from a long list of undemocratic, racist and anti-Arab laws that have become the symbol of the 18th Knesset and Netanyahu's government.

Sima Kadmon in centrist, mass circulation Yediot Aharonot

In the vote on one of the most controversial laws, Netanyahu was absent... If Netanyahu thinks that this law harms the State of Israel and its image as a democratic state, we would have expected [him] to stand up against it like a man. And if he is for it, he should not let others do the work for him - turn up at the plenum and vote for it with a head held high.

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