Boycotting the boycotters: anti-BDS legislation wins the day

Double standards

Following on from the previous post by Brian about the origins of BDS, it is important to keep things in proportion. Despite the outrageous nature of the motives of BDS (it basically boils down to antisemitism), and notwithstanding their self-promotion and very loud publicity (amplified by a sympathetic media)  they have had very little success on the ground. Even the related and more “acceptable in polite society” anti-settlements boycott is having difficulty getting off the ground.

We’ll start with the bad news first. Israel is outraged as EU seeks labelling of settlement goods:

“The call is essentially a de facto call to boycott Israel,” said Lapid.

“There is no difference between products made beyond the Green Line and products made inside the Green Line.

“This is an irresponsible initiative with the potential to be disastrous for the Israeli economy. It is a stain on the EU, and the State of Israel needs to fight it in order to prevent this dangerous process,” he said.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman sarcastically suggested the EU use the yellow star to label settlement goods. However, as an interesting aside, “Germany wasn’t among the signatories.”

What BDS really means

But help is at hand for Israel – from the US! Prof. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection explains how the boycotters will be boycotted:

We have highlighted before proposed federal legislation updating boycott protection for Israel in new trade legislation, including the massive European Union free trade agreement under negotiation. BDS supporters howled that the trade legislation could mean the death of BDS in Europe.

That effort just got a huge boost, as this AIPAC press release reflects:

AIPAC praises the Senate Finance Committee for unanimously including an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill yesterday. AIPAC applauds the amendment’s authors, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and expresses appreciation to Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR), who backed this key initiative.

The amendment addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. Utilizing well-established congressional tools, the provision directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce. The amendment also urges the U.S. Trade Representative to seek to eliminate politically-motivated economic attacks on Israel by America’s free trade partners.

The Times of Israel provides more context:

The amendment will come to a floor vote when the Senate votes on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the underlying bill. The administration is pushing hard for the TPA, which is expected to come to a vote as early as next week and has bipartisan support.

The amendment only applies to the TTIP negotiations with Europe, and not the companion Trans-Pacific Partnership talks — a response, sponsors say, to a tide of BDS-related initiatives in the European countries with which the US hopes to negotiate a historic agreement.

In further good news from America, Tennessee has become the first legislature to condemn BDS:

The resolution, which is expected to be signed next week by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, declares that the BDS movement is “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state,” adding that BDS activities in Tennessee “undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel.”

Furthermore, the resolution states that the BDS movement and its agenda are “inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights for all the peoples in the Middle East.”

Tennessee State Senator Dolores Gresham, who co-sponsored the resolution along with State Representative Sheila Butt, said the state’s legislature “chooses to preserve its values by publicly condemning this blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel bigotry, and send a clear message that Tennessee condemns such views.”

Joanne Bregman, a local Jewish activist and attorney who advocated for the resolution’s passage, told that the Tennessee General Assembly’s action could serve as a template for other U.S. states to recognize the growing threats of the BDS movement and anti-Semitism. She added that the Christian-initiated bill should be a “wake-up call” for the Jewish community to be the ones “who need to fill the public information void” on BDS and anti-Semitism.

In yet more US anti-boycott legislation (h/t Elder of Ziyon), a US court chucks out the case against charities supporting settlements:

 The US Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s dismissal of an appeal from a group of 13 Palestinians that sought damages for alleged “terrorist attacks” by Jews in the West Bank.

The complaint was filed against five US-based charities that financially support settlement activity: Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. The plaintiffs alleged that financial support of these charities violated antiterrorism laws.

“American federal judges recognize the difference between the financing of murder and violence… and legitimate bona fide financial support of the daily needs of peaceful Israeli settlements over the Green Line,” attorney Nathan Lewin, who represented the charities in the trial and appellate courts, said in a news release sent Friday.

I take my hat off in gratitude and respect for all the American legislators, Christian activists, judges and friends of Israel who contributed to these important judgements, which are no less moral victories than legal triumphs.

BDS: no dissent allowed

A victory was achieved in Israel too in combatting both the general anti-Israel BDS and the more specific anti-settlements boycott attempts. This win was not to be taken for granted given Israel’s judiciary’s leftist slant. Nevertheless, Israel’s High Court upheld most of the “Boycott Law” which would enable lawsuits against Israeli boycotters (yes, there are such disloyal people in Israel unfortunately):

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday upheld two core parts and struck down one core part of the Anti-Boycott Law, and in a close 5-4 ruling upheld lawsuits against boycotters of “1967 Israel.”

The rulings that preserved core parts of the law came in a 9-0 vote on the authority of the finance minister to impose fines or withhold funding from Israeli NGOs calling for boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel, and a 8-1 ruling on the ability to file lawsuits against those NGOs.

One justice declared all lawsuits against boycotts unconstitutional.

American-born Justice Neal Hendel called free speech the “lifeblood” of democracy and reviewed American law, noting that it has no provision for lawsuits against boycotters.

At the same time, the court voted 9-0 to strike down as unconstitutional a core part of the law that would have allowed punitive damages in such lawsuits.

Finally, in a 5-4 vote, the majority of justices said that the above lawsuits could go forward even if they were against groups that called only for boycotts of post-1967 Israel, meaning of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, whereas the minority said that such boycotts should be protected free speech.

The minority explained that since there is a vibrant debate about whether Israelis should remain in Judea and Samaria, a boycott targeted only at that area and not at the rest of the country is legitimate speech and not trying to undermine Israel’s existence.

 I do not understand the minority’s explanations. A boycott is much more than “free speech”. They are not boycotting words but actual goods, i.e. they wish to ruin the economy of Jewish Israeli towns situated in Judea and Samaria. Some of them suggest academic boycotts too, e.g. of Ariel University, or cultural boycotts of events held in these communities. This goes far beyond the bounds of “free speech”.

Peter Beinart, who wrote the hotly debated book The Crisis of Zionism, is an associate professor at the City University of New York, a Haaretz columnist and a leading Jewish voice calling for targeted boycotts of the West Bank, said it would not impact hardcore BDS activists “because it’s a one-state movement and rejects” the two-state solution.

Still, Steinberg said there could be impact on the NIF and the groups it funds. He also said the ruling, which treats boycotters of the West Bank similarly to boycotters of all of Israel, could reflect the justices’ recognition of a growing movement in some European countries such as Scandinavia where particular corporate-social responsibility, pension funds and corporate investors have been more influenced by BDS ideas to boycott Israeli banks that do business over the Green Line.

Regarding this threat, Steinberg said the justices have declared that such a distinction is “not black and white” with so much blurring of business between “post 1948 Israel” and “post 1967 Israel.”

The Algemeiner speculates that lawsuits may arrive in wake of courts BDS ruling:

With the new legal ruling, BDS critics predict litigation to recover damages from the NIF and its grantees engaged in the BDS movement. After the ruling, Ronn Torossian, an entrepreneur who has written about the NIF, confirmed: “Immediately following the legal decision, a high profile uber-wealthy donor advised me of his intent to fund anyone who sought to sue the New Israel Fund for aiding and abetting boycotts of Israel. The NIF boycotts hurt both Israel and Palestinian Arabs and is simply racist at its core. It’s anti-Democratic and wrong.”

Richard Allen of JCC Watch, stated, “I certainly hope a lawsuit happens. New Israel Fund and its donors have been financing the BDS against Israel and it has been very effective. Now, they have even carved out a space for Jewish organizations to find this acceptable. But it is assisted suicide.”

Several other legal experts were skeptical that any suits initiated in Israel would ultimately prevail.

Of course we are not out of the woods, and anti-Israel boycotts, in their various disguises as political anti-Zionism, anti-settlements activity or free speech, will continue until the boycotters realise that their cause in not supported. Sadly that day is still far in the distance. Nevertheless we can take comfort that important steps towards that happy day have been taken in recent weeks.

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3 Responses to Boycotting the boycotters: anti-BDS legislation wins the day

  1. Reality says:

    I have a solution.If the boycotts are successful,(G-d forbid),the companies employing Palestinian wiekers will kick them out &will be told to apply to the BDS committees for unemployment pay. Only Israeli Jews will be employed thereon after

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    I return to this area later this year, as noted in the article of mine that Anne posted, immediately after this one, and that article will include the following link (but why wait for the pleasure of reading good news?), which argues that BDS has had little if any impact on the growth of the Israeli economy:

    Couldn’t happen to nicer antisemites (oops, anti-Zionists), could it?

  3. Pingback: The future’s bright. The future’s not Orange in Israel | Anne's Opinions

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