Tikkun Magazine

Why Israelis must fight against the boycott law by Gideon Levi, Ha’aretz, Tel Aviv

In mid July the Israeli Knesset passed a law making it illegal to advocate for boycotting, sanctioning or divesting from Israel–including boycotting products made in the Occupied territories by Israeli settlers. This in turn has set off an explosion of opposition inside Israel by peace oriented groups and civil liberties and human rights groups. Gideon Levi published the article below in the July 14 issue of Ha’aretz.

With the new boycott law the meager Israeli discourse will become even more threadbare due to the silencing laws; this may be the last call to boycott those who are boycotting Israeli democracy.

I have never preached publicly to others to boycott the products of the settlements. Everyone should follow his own conscience. Just as I try to buy blue-and-white Israeli products, I also try not to buy “black”: products with a very black flag flying over them, a flag of injustice and theft. The Boycott Law that was passed this week is causing me to change direction: From now on I will publicly preach to others, too, not to buy black products. Yes, boycott them!

Boycott - Emil Salman - July 2011

Protesters rally against the law in front of the Knesset, July 10, 2011 (Photo by: Emil Salman)

One doesn’t buy stolen merchandise. Period. We can and must say that out loud, before this disgraceful law was passed and even more so after it was passed.

According to the new law of the new Israel, whose image is becoming distorted at alarming speed before our amazed eyes (and the eyes of the world ), it will be forbidden to say that. Now, even those who did not always read the small print on every container of salad and bag of pretzels from Barkan, mushrooms from Tekoa and wine from the Golan, are called on to boycott these products. Now these are no longer products of the settlements – now it’s the regime.

Now we call not only on those who consider the damage caused by the settlements to be decisive, but also those who fear for the character of the country and the society in which they live – to boycott.To boycott, boycott and boycott. Not only the products of injustice, but the unjust regime as well. This law must now be boycotted.

Is the attorney general stammering? The public that cares must not stammer like him. In that sense there is actually value to the Boycott Law and its ilk, its predecessors and the laws that will follow it. The more they multiply, the more anger and protest will erupt. Maybe they will finally arouse the Israelis from their apathy in light of what is being done in their name and what is being done to them.

It’s not the settlements, dummy, it’s all of us. Now we’re not talking only about what is happening in the land of the occupation, which is far from the eye and the heart. Now it’s already close to home, and this house is on fire.

There is only one important aspect to this Boycott Law. It shows the Israelis what they may and may not say. The subject that was the cause of the stormiest public controversy in Israeli society, until it curled up in its complacency, desperation and lack of interest, has now become taboo by dint of the most illegal law that the Knesset has ever passed.

In that way Israel’s most significant asset is being destroyed – the asset of being an open and democratic society. Israel’s friends in America and Europe understand that, but in Israel people don’t even begin to understand. The price of disposable diapers is still causing far more excitement than the price of those suffocating diapers with which the Knesset has wrapped the public discourse in Israel.

If the public (and the Supreme Court ) surrender now to the edict, an unforeseeable shower of edicts will follow. Ask the Danons and the Elkins what else they have up the barrel of their gun, which is firing straight into the heart of democracy. Today calling for a boycott is forbidden, tomorrow it will be forbidden to call for an end to the occupation. Today it is forbidden to call for refraining from buying Ahva (Brotherhood ) brand halva. Tomorrow it will be forbidden to call for brotherhood between Jews and Arabs.

Wait–wait and see. The meager Israeli discourse will become even more threadbare, due to the silencing laws. That’s why this is the time, this may be the last call: Boycott. Boycott those who are boycotting Israeli democracy.

tags: Israel/Palestine