Civil rights protesters attack boycott law

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 20, 2014

The anti-boycott law passed by the Knesset two years ago was challenged in Israel’s High Court on Sunday.

Civil-rights groups petitioned for a change claiming it unfairly limited freedom of speech.

The law allows for damages to be awarded against anyone calling for a boycott of products manufactured on the settlements and a general economic boycott of Israel. But as yet no claims have yet been served under the legislation and the Finance Ministry has not published new orders to deny boycotters financial benefits.

But the petitioners claimed that by its very existence, the law has limited freedom of speech.

Representatives of the State Prosecutor’s Office admitted that it did contradict the principle of free speech but argued that Israeli law doesn’t recognise unlimited speech and prohibits incitement to racism — therefore prohibiting calls to national boycott are constitutional. Nine judges who will rule on the petition asked the plaintiffs whether their position would be different if the clause prohibiting boycott of an “area under Israeli control,” was deleted.

This raised the possibility that they would allow calls to specifically boycott the settlements.

Dan Yakir, lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel claimed the Knesset has “harmed freedom of speech instead of fulfilling its role to deal with the issue.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, February 20 2014