An Alternative View - Eliyahu Stone H/T IsraelMatsav Website

November 24, 2016 23:01

The Anti-Boycott legislation recently enacted by the Knesset has brought a firestorm of criticism from many claiming that such legislation is inherently undemocratic. Please allow me to present an alternative viewpoint:

Declaring that boycotts, per se, are illegal might be anti-democratic. However the subject legislation does not criminalize boycotts. Rather, the legislation provides a balance, allowing those who wish not to deal with Israel, even indirectly, to act as they see fit - so long as they do not interfere with otherwise binding contracts by calling for the economic destruction and international sanction of others who think differently than they do.

A careful reading of the legislation shows that it merely provides the possibility of defense - via an appropriate civil cause of action- for those whom the BDS (Boycott- Divestment- Sanction) supporters mean to strangle economically - and, arguably, undemocratically. Adherence to democratic principles does not demand - nor should it compel - any democratic institution to aid and abet all actions of those who effectively deny it the right to self defense, and actively advocate for its dissolution by any means short of armed assault. Moreover, those who would squash others by economic means should hardly be heard to complain when their intended victim chooses to withhold its economic support (in the form of tax breaks, etc.) from them. Israel's refusal to support its detractors in their declared efforts to undermine Israel's economy and blacklist all of its academic and cultural institutions is eminently reasonable - and, albeit long in coming, presents no unfair surprise to those who have consistently exploited democratic rhetoric and institutions in the service of most undemocratic ends.

Any fair assessment of the Anti-Boycott legislation must take into consideration the relevant history and context. the BDS Movement is hardly a being sui generis, springing spontaneously from thin air. Those with a sense of regional history will recall the Arab boycotts of Jewish and Zionist interests which began well before 1948 when the modern state of Israel was recognized by the U.N. Indeed, the Arab League boycott of Israel remains in effect today, administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office (CBO), a specialized bureau of the League. The Arab Boycott - as does the BDS boycott - targets not only Israel and her institutions, but also companies that do business in or with Israel. A fair read of the BDS Movement's website reveals that ultimate goal of that movement, too, is the dismantling of the Jewish state - continuing the assault on her initiated by Arab armies in 1948 - via economic means.

Anti-Boycott legislation is hardly unprecedented in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1977, the United States Congress passed laws making it illegal for U.S. companies and individuals to cooperate with the Arab boycott against Israel and authorizing the imposition of not only civil but also criminal penalties against U.S. violators. The legislation that Israel has enacted is far less onerous for its opponents than the U.S legislation is for its opponents. On the other hand, the BDS Movement's boycott constitutes at least as great a threat to Israel, any who associate with her and to the very notion of free trade as the original Arab Boycott. Israel's legislation appropriately withholds Israeli governmental support from those who work toward Israel's destruction by economic means and provides a mechanism for Israel's constituency to defend themselves from (now) tortious interference with third-party contracts, premised solely on their connection to Israel, its institutions or areas under its control.

A majority of the Israeli Knesset has now agreed that Israel will no longer be complicit in engineering her own demise. The legislature has asserted its right to re-level the economic playing field and provide Israel's professors, farmers, merchants, entrepreneurs, hospitals and cultural institutions with some mechanism for defending themselves against the tyranny of those who would concentrate their economic might to wreak havoc upon them by precluding any association and commerce with them due only to some connection with the State of Israel, any of its institutions, or an area under its control (the Disputed Territories).

The wording of the Anti-Boycott measure might be improved upon; the Israeli courts (which the BDS boycott as institutions of Israel) will undoubtedly be called upon to interpret its scope and meaning, over time. However, this bill, crafted to allow the possibility of recourse - via legal challenge of those who call trans-nationally for trampling the economic, cultural and academic the freedom of Israelis and Israel's trade partners - serves to promote and maintain democratic ideals, such as freedom of association, economic substantive due process and - yes - the free exchange of ideas.

So why is Millis so much against it?

November 24, 2016 23:01

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