Viser arkivet for stikkord boycott

Uri Avnery: -Why boycott of Israel is wrong!

Uri Avnery
June 13, 2015

BDS, the New Enemy

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU was racking his brain. His whole career is based on fear mongering. Since Jews have lived in fear for millennia, it is easy to invoke it. They are addicts.

For years now, Netanyahu has built his career on fear of the Iranian Nuclear Bomb. The Iranians are crazy people. Once they have the Bomb, they will drop it on Israel, even if Israel’s nuclear second strike will certainly annihilate Iran with its thousands of years of civilization.

But Netanyahu saw with growing anxiety that the Iranian threat was losing its edge. The US, so it seems, is about to reach an agreement with Iran, which will prevent it from achieving the Bomb. Even Sheldon the Great cannot prevent the agreement. What to do?

Looking around, three letters popped up: BDS. They denote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a worldwide campaign to boycott Israel because of its 48 year-old subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Ah, here we have a real threat, worse than the Bomb. A second Holocaust is looming. Brave little Israel facing the entire evil, anti-Semitic world.

True, until now Israel has suffered no real damage. BDS is more about gestures than about real economic weapons. But who is counting? The legions of anti-Semites are on the march.

Who will save us? Bibi the Great, of course!

HONEST DISCLOSURE: my friends and I initiated the first boycott, which was directed at the products of the settlements.

Our peace movement, Gush Shalom, was deliberating how to stop the spread of the settlements, each of which is a land mine on the road to peace. The main reason for setting up settlements is to prevent the two-state solution – the only peace solution there is.

Our investigators made a Grand Tour of the settlements and registered the enterprises which were lured by government enticements to set up shop beyond the Green Line. We published the list and encouraged customers to abstain from buying these products.

A boycott is a democratic instrument of protest. It is non-violent. Every person can exercise it privately, without joining any group or exhibiting himself or herself in public.

Our main aim was to get the Israeli public to distinguish clearly between Israel proper and the settlements in the occupied territories.

In March 1997 we held a press conference to announce the campaign. It was a unique event. I have held press conference which were overflowing with journalists – for example, after my first meeting with Yasser Arafat in besieged West Beirut. I have held press conferences with sparse attendance. But this one was really special: not a single Israeli journalist turned up.

Still, the idea spread. I don’t know how many thousand Israelis are boycotting the products of the settlements right now.

However, we were upset by the attitude of the European Union authorities, which denounced the settlements while in practice subsidizing their products with customs exemptions like real Israeli wares. My colleagues and I went to Brussels to protest, but were told by polite bureaucrats that Germany and others were obstructing any step toward a settlement boycott.

Eventually, the Europeans moved, albeit slowly. They are now demanding that the products of the settlements be clearly marked.

THE BDS movement has a very different agenda. They want to boycott the State of Israel as such.

I always considered this a major strategic error. Instead of isolating the settlements and separating them from mainstream Israelis, a general boycott drives all Israelis into the arms of the settlers. It re-awakens age-old Jewish fears. Facing a common danger, Jews unite.

Netanyahu could not wish for more. He is now riding the wave of Jewish reactions. Every day there are headlines about another success of the boycott movement, and each success is a bonus for Netanyahu.

It is also a bonus for his adversary, Omar al-Barghouti, the Palestinian organizer of BDS.

Palestine is well stocked with Barghoutis. It is an extended family prominent in several villages north of Jerusalem.

The most famous is Marwan al-Barghouti, who has been condemned to several life sentences for leading the Fatah youth organization. He was not indicted for taking part in any “terrorist” acts, but for his role as organizationally responsible. Indeed, he and I were partners in organizing several non-violent protests against the occupation.

When he was brought to trial, we protested in the court building. One of my colleagues lost a toenail in the ensuing battle with the violent court guards. Marwan is still in prison and many Palestinians consider him a prospective heir of Mahmoud Abbas.

Another Barghouti is Mustafa, the very likable leader of a leftist party, who ran against Abbas for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. We have met while facing the army in several demonstrations against the Wall.

Omar Barghouti, the leader of the BDS movement, is a postgraduate student at Tel Aviv University. He demands the free return of all Palestinian refugees, equality for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and, of course, an end to the occupation.

However, BDS is not a highly organized worldwide organization. It is more of a trade mark. Groups of students, artists and others spring up spontaneously and join the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Here and there, some real anti-Semites try to join. But for Netanyahu, they are all, all anti-Semites.

AS WE feared from the beginning, the boycott of Israel – as distinguished from the boycott of the settlements – has united the general Jewish population with the settlers, under the leadership of Netanyahu.

The fatherland is in danger. National unity is the order of the day. “Opposition Leader” Yitzhak Herzog is rushing forward to support
Netanyahu, as are almost all other parties.

Israel’s Supreme Court, a frightened shadow of its former self, has already decreed that calling for a boycott of Israel is a crime – including calls for boycotting the settlements.

Almost every day, news about the boycott hits the headlines. The boss of “Orange”, the French communications giant, first joined the boycott, then quickly turned around and is coming to Israel for a pilgrimage of repentance. Student organizations and professional groups in America and Europe adopt the boycott. The EU now vigorously demands the marking of settlement products.

Netanyahu is happy. He calls upon world Jewry to take up the fight against this anti-Semitic outrage. The owner of Netanyahu, multi-billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, has convened a war council of rich Jews in Las Vegas. His counterpart, pro-Labor multi-billionaire Haim Saban has joined him. Even the perpetrators of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion would not believe it.

AS COMIC relief, another casino owner is competing for the headlines. He is a much, much smaller operator, who cannot be compared to Adelson.

He is the new Knesset Member Oren Hazan, No 30 on the Likud election list, the last one who got in. A TV expose has alleged that he was the owner of a casino in Bulgaria, who supplied prostitutes to his clients and used hard drugs. He has already been chosen as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. The Speaker has temporarily suspended him from chairing Knesset plenum sessions.

So the two casino owners, the big and the small, dominate the news. Rather bizarre in a country where casinos are forbidden, and where clandestine casino goers are routinely arrested.

Well, life is a roulette game. Even life in Israel.

Uri Avnery: -There Are Still Judges...

April 18, 2015

THIS WEEK I won a dubious distinction: a groundbreaking Supreme Court judgment has been named after me.

It is an honor I would have gladly dispensed with.

MY NAME appeared at the head of a list of applicants, associations and individuals, which asked the court to cancel a law enacted by the Knesset.

Israel has no written constitution. This unusual situation arose right from the beginning of the state because David Ben-Gurion, a fierce secularist, could not achieve a compromise with the orthodox parties, which insisted that the Torah already is a constitution.

So, instead of a constitution, we have a number of Basic Laws which cover only a part of the ground, and a mass of Supreme Court precedents. This court slowly arrogated to itself the right to abolish Laws enacted by the Knesset which contradict the nonexistent constitution.

STARTING FROM the last Knesset, extreme right-wing Likud Members have been competing with each other in their efforts to castrate the Supreme Court one way or another. Some would stuff the court with right-wing judges, others would radically limit its jurisdiction.

Things came to a head when a group of far-right Likud members launched a veritable avalanche of bills which were clearly unconstitutional. One of them, and the most dangerous one, was a law that forbade people to call for a boycott of the State of Israel and, in a sinister way, added the words “and of territories held by it”.

This revealed the real aim of the operation. Some years before, our Gush Shalom peace organization had called on the public to boycott the products of the settlements in the occupied territories. We also published on our website a list of these products. Several other peace organizations joined the campaign.

Simultaneously, we tried to convince the European Union to do something similar. Israel’s agreement with the EU, which exempts Israeli wares from customs, does not include the settlements. But the EU was used to closing its eyes. It took us a lot of time and effort to open them again. In recent years, the EU has excluded these goods. They have demanded that on all merchandise “made in Israel”, the actual place of origin be stated. This week, 16 European foreign ministers called upon the EU foreign affairs chief to demand that all products from the settlements be clearly marked.

The law passed by the Knesset not only has criminal aspects, but also civil ones. Persons calling for a boycott could not only be sent to prison. They could also be ordered to pay huge damages without the plaintiff having to prove that any actual damage had been caused to him or her by the call.

Also, associations which receive government subsidies or other governmental assistance under existing laws would be deprived of them from then on, making their work for peace and social justice even more difficult.

WITHIN MINUTES after the enactment of this law, Gush Shalom and I personally submitted our applications to the Supreme Court. They had been prepared well in advance by advocate Gaby Lasky, a talented young lawyer and dedicated peace activist. My name was the first in the list of petitioners, and so the case is called: “Avnery v. the State of Israel”.

The case laid out by Lasky was logical and sound. The right of free speech is not guaranteed in Israel by any specific law, but is derived from several Basic Laws. A boycott is a legitimate democratic action. Any individual can decide to buy or not to buy something. Indeed, Israel is full of boycotts. Shops selling non-kosher food, for example, are routinely boycotted by the religious, and posters calling for such boycotts of a specific shop are widely distributed in religious neighborhoods.

The new law does not prohibit boycotts in general. It singles out political boycotts of a certain kind. Yet political boycotts are commonplace in any democracy. They are part of the exercise of freedom of speech.

Indeed, the most famous modern boycott was launched by the Jewish community in the United States in 1933, after the Nazis came to power in Germany. In response, the Nazis called for a boycott of all Jewish enterprises in Germany. I remember the date, April 1, because my father did not allow me to go to school on that day (I was 9 years old and the only Jew in my school.)

Later, all progressive countries joined in a boycott of the racist regime in South Africa. That boycott played a large (though not decisive) role in bringing it down.

A law cannot generally compel a person to buy a normal commodity, nor can it generally forbid them to buy it. Even the framers of this new Israeli law understood this. Therefore, their law does not punish anybody for buying or not buying. It punishes those who call on others to abstain from buying.

Thus the law is clearly an attack on the freedom of speech and on non-violent democratic action. In short, it is a basically flawed anti-democratic law.

THE COURT which judged our case consisted of nine judges, almost the entire Supreme Court. Such a composition is very rare, and only summoned when a fateful decision has to be made.

The court was headed by its president, Judge Asher Gronis. That in itself was significant, since Gronis already left the court and went into compulsory retirement in January, when he reached the age of 70. When the seat became vacant, Gronis was already too old to become the court president. Under the then existing Israeli law, a Supreme Court judge cannot become the court’s president when the time for his final retirement is too close. But the Likud was so eager to have him that a special enabling law was passed to allow him to become the president.

Moreover, a judge who has been on a case but did not finish his judgment in time before retiring, is given an extra three months to finish the job. It seems that even Gronis, the Likud’s protégé, had qualms about this specific decision. He signed it literally at the very last moment – at 17.30 hours of the last day, just before Israel went into mourning at the start of Holocaust Day.

His signature was decisive. The court was split – 4 to 4 – between those who wanted to annul the law and those who wanted to uphold it. Gronis joined the pro-law section and the law was approved. It is now the Law of the Land.

One section of the original law was, unanimously, stricken from the text. The original text said that any person – i.e. settler – who claims that they have been harmed by the boycott, can claim unlimited indemnities from anyone who has called for this boycott, without having to prove that they were actually hurt. From now on, a claimant has to prove the damage.

At the public hearing of our case, we were asked by the judges if we would be satisfied if they strike out the words “territories held by Israel”, thus leaving the boycott of the settlements intact. We answered that in principle we insist on annulling the entire law, but would welcome the striking out of these words. But in the final judgment, even this was not done.

This, by the way, creates an absurd situation. If a professor in Ariel University, deep in the occupied territories, claims that I have called to boycott him, he can sue me. Then my lawyer will try to prove that my call went quite unheeded and therefore caused no damage, while the professor will have to prove that my voice was so influential that multitudes were induced to boycott him.
YEARS AGO, when I was still Editor-in-Chief of Haolam Hazeh, the news-magazine, I decided to choose Aharon Barak as our Man of the Year.

When I interviewed him, he told me how his life was saved during the Holocaust. He was a child in the Kovno ghetto, when a Lithuanian farmer decided to smuggle him out. This simple man risked his own life and the lives of his family when he hid him under a load of potatoes to save his life.

In Israel, Barak rose to eminence as a jurist, and eventually became the president of the Supreme Court. He led a revolution called “Juristic Activism”, asserting, among other things, that the Supreme Court is entitled to strike out any law that negates the (unwritten) Israeli constitution.

It is impossible to overrate the importance of this doctrine. Barak did for Israeli democracy perhaps more than any other person. His immediate successors – two women – abided by this rule. That’s why the Likud was so eager to put Gronis in his place. Gronis’ doctrine can be called “Juristic Passivism”.

During my interview with him, Barak told me: “Look, the Supreme Court has no legions to enforce its decisions. It is entirely dependent on the attitude of the people. It can go no further than the people are ready to accept!”

I constantly remember this injunction. Therefore I was not too surprised by the judgment of the Supreme Court in the boycott case.

The Court was afraid. It’s as simple as that. And as understandable.

The fight between the Supreme Court and the Likud’s far-right is nearing a climax. The Likud has just won a decisive election victory. Its leaders are not hiding their intention to finally implement their sinister designs on the independence of the Court.

They want to allow politicians to dominate the appointment committee for Supreme Court judges and to abolish altogether the right of the court to annul unconstitutional laws enacted by the Knesset.

MENACHEM BEGIN used to quote the miller of Potsdam who, when involved with the King in a private dispute, exclaimed: “There are still judges in Berlin!”

Begin said: “There are still judges in Jerusalem!”

For how long?

How the boycott of the Israeli settlements started

Captain Boycott Rides Again

By URI AVNERY
22 February 2014

IT HAS always been a secret ambition of mine to have a bagatz ruling bearing my name.

Bagatz is the Hebrew acronym for “High Court of Justice”, the Israeli equivalent of a constitutional court. It plays a very important role in Israeli public life.

Having a ground-breaking Supreme Court decision named after you confers a kind of immortality. Long after you are gone, lawyers quote your case and refer to the judgment.

Take Roe v. Wade, for example. Whenever abortion is debated in the US, Roe v. Wade (1973) comes up, though few remember who Jane Roe and Henry Wade actually were. Now there is “Uri Avnery and Others v. the Knesset and the State of Israel”, which came up this week before the Israeli Supreme Court. It concerns the anti-boycott law enacted by the Knesset.

A few hours after the law was passed, Gush Shalom and I personally submitted to the court our application to annul it. We had prepared our legal arguments well in advance. That’s why it bears my name. The applicants rather disrespectfully called “Others” are about a dozen human rights organizations, both Jewish and Arab, who joined us.

After this ego-trip, let’s get to the point.

THE COURT session was rather unusual. Instead of the three justices who normally deal with such applications, this time nine judges – almost the full complement of the court – were seated at the table. Almost a dozen lawyers argued for the two sides. Among them was our own Gabi Lasky, who opened the case for the applicants.

The judges were no passive listeners fighting boredom, as they usually are. All nine judges intervened constantly, asking questions, interjecting provocative remarks. They were clearly very interested.

The law does not outlaw boycotts as such. The original Captain Charles Boycott would not have been involved.

Boycott was an agent of an absentee landlord in Ireland who evicted tenants unable to pay their rent during the Irish famine of 1880. Instead of resorting to violence against him, Irish leaders called on their people to ostracize him. He was “boycotted” – no one spoke with him, worked for him, traded with him or even delivered his mail. Pro-British volunteers were brought in to work for him, protected by a thousand British soldiers. But soon “boycotting” became widespread and entered the English language.

By now, of course, a boycott means a lot more than ostracizing an individual. It is a major instrument of protest, intended to hurt the object both morally and economically, much like an industrial strike.

In Israel, a number of boycotts are going on all the time. The rabbis call on pious Jews to boycott shops which sell non-kosher food or hotels which serve hot meals on the holy Sabbath. Consumers upset by the cost of food boycotted cottage cheese, an act that grew into the mass social protest in the summer of 2011. No one was indignant.

Until it reached the settlements.

IN 1997 Gush Shalom, the movement to which I belong, declared the first boycott of the settlements. We called upon Israelis to abstain from buying goods produced by settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This caused hardly a stir. When we called a press conference, not a single Israeli journalist attended – something I have never experienced before or since.

To facilitate the action, we published a list of the enterprises located in the settlements. Much to our surprise, tens of thousands of consumers asked for the list. That’s how the ball started rolling.

We did not call for a boycott of Israel. Quite the contrary, our main aim was to emphasize the difference between Israel proper and the settlements. One of our stickers said: “I Buy Only Products of Israel – Not the Products of the Settlements!”

While the government did everything possible to erase the Green Line, we aimed at restoring it in the consciousness of the Israeli public.

We also aimed at hurting the settlements economically. The government was working full-time to attract people to the settlements by offering private villas to young couple who could not afford an apartment in Israel proper, and lure local and foreign investors with huge subsidies and tax reductions. The boycott was intended to counteract these inducements.

We were also attracted by the very nature of a boycott: it is democratic and non-violent. Anyone can implement it quietly in their private life, without having to identify himself or herself.

THE GOVERNMENT decided that the best way to minimize the damage was to ignore us. But when our initiative started to find followers abroad, they became alarmed. Especially when the EU decided to implement the provisions of its trade agreement with Israel. This confers large benefits on Israeli exports, but excludes the settlements which are manifestly illegal under international law.

The Knesset reacted furiously and devoted a whole day to the matter. (If I may be allowed another ego-trip: I decided to attend the session. As a former member, I was seated with Rachel in the gallery of honored guests. When a rightist speaker noticed us, he turned around and, in a flagrant breach of parliamentary etiquette, pointed at us and snarled: “There is the Royal Couple of the Left!”)

Abroad, too, the boycott was initially aimed at the settlements. But, drawing on the experience of the anti-apartheid struggle, it soon turned into a general boycott of Israel. I do not support this. To my mind, it is counter-productive, since it pushes the general population into the arms of the settlers, under the tired old slogan: “All the world is against us”.

The growing dimensions of the various boycotts could no longer be ignored. The Israeli Right decided to act – and it did so in a very clever way.

It exploited the call to boycott Israel in order to outlaw the call to boycott the settlements, which was the part which really upset it. That is the essence of the law enacted two years ago.

THE LAW does not punish individual boycotters. It punishes everyone who publicly calls for a boycott.

And what punishment! No prison terms, which would have turned us into martyrs. The law says that any individual who feels that they have been hurt by the boycott call can sue the boycott-callers for unlimited damages, without having to prove any damage at all. So can hundreds of others. This way the initiators of a boycott can be condemned to pay millions of shekels.

Not just any boycott. No pork or cottage cheese is involved. Only boycotts aimed against institutions or people connected with the State of Israel or – here come the three fateful Hebrew words: “a territory ruled by Israel”.

Clearly, the whole legal edifice was constructed for these three words. The law does not protect Israel. It protects the settlements. That is its sole purpose.

The dozens of questions rained down on our lawyers concerned mainly this point.

Would we be satisfied with striking out these three words? (Good question. Of course we would. But we could not say so, because our main argument was that the law restricts freedom of speech. That applies to the law as a whole.)

Would we have opposed a law directed against the Arab Boycott maintained against Israel during its early years? (The circumstances were completely different.)

Do we oppose the freedom of speech of rabbis who prohibit the leasing of apartments to Arab citizens? (That is not a boycott, but crass discrimination.)

After hours of debate, the court adjourned. Judgment will be given at some undefined date. Probably there will be a majority and several minority decisions.

Will the court dare to strike out a law of the Knesset? That would demand real courage. I would not be surprised if the majority decides to leave the law as it is, but strike out the words concerning the settlements.

Otherwise, it will be another step towards turning Israel into a state of the settlers, by the settlers and for the settlers.

There are examples for this in history. The eminent British historian Arnold Toynbee – a favorite of mine – once composed a list of countries which were taken over by the inhabitants of their border regions, who as a rule are hardier and more fanatical than the spoiled inhabitants of the center. For example, the Prussians, then the inhabitants of a remote border region, took over half of Germany, and then the rest. Savoy, a borderland, created modern Italy.

WHATEVER THE outcome, the decision in the case of “Uri Avnery and Others v. the State of Israel” will be quoted for a long time.

Some satisfaction, at least.

Avnery: -Can Israel become nazi? Yes, it can.

Uri Avnery
July 16, 2011

It Can Happen Here!

YEARS AGO I said that there are but two miracles in Israel: the Hebrew language and democracy.

Hebrew had been a dead language for many generations, more or less like Latin, when it was still used in the Catholic church. Then, suddenly, concurrent with the emergence of Zionism (but independently) it sprang back to life. This never happened to any other language.

Theodor Herzl laughed at the idea that Jews in Palestine would speak Hebrew. He wanted us to speak German. “Are they going to ask for a railway ticket in Hebrew?” he scoffed.

Well, we now buy airline tickets in Hebrew. We read the Bible in its Hebrew original and enjoy it tremendously. As Abba Eban once said, if King David were to come to life in Jerusalem today, he could understand the language spoken in the street. Though with some difficulty, because our language gets corrupted, like most other languages.

Anyhow, the position of Hebrew is secure. Babies and Nobel Prize laureates speak it.

The fate of the other miracle is far less assured.

THE FUTURE – indeed, the present – of Israeli democracy is shrouded in doubt.

It is a miracle, because it did not grow slowly over generations, like Anglo-Saxon democracy. There was no democracy in the Jewish shtetl. Neither is there anything like it in Jewish religious tradition. But the Zionist Founding Fathers, mostly West and Central European Jews, aspired to the highest social ideals of their time.

I have always warned that our democracy has very shallow and tender roots, and needs our constant care. Where did the Jews who founded Israel, and who came here thereafter, grow up? Under the dictatorship of the British High Commissioner, the Russian Czar, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the king of Morocco, Pilsudsky’s Poland and similar regimes. Those of us who came from democratic countries like Weimar Germany or the US were a tiny minority.

Yet the founders of Israel succeeded in establishing a vibrant democracy that – at least until 1967 – was in no way inferior, and in some ways superior, to the British or American models. We were proud of it, and the world admired it. The appellation “the Only Democracy in the Middle East” was not a hollow propaganda slogan.

Some claim that with the occupation of the Palestinian territories, which have lived since 1967 under a harsh military regime without the slightest trace of democracy and human rights, this situation already came to an end. Whatever one thinks about that, in fact Israel in its pre-1967 borders maintained a reasonable record until recently. For the ordinary citizen, democracy was still a fact of life. Even Arab citizens enjoyed democratic rights far superior to anything in the Arab world.

This week, all this was put in doubt. Some say that this doubt has now been dispersed, and that a stark reality is being exposed.

CHARLES BOYCOTT, the agent of a British landowner in Ireland, could never have imagined that he would play a role in a country called Israel 130 years after his name had become a world-wide symbol.

Captain Boycott evicted Irish tenants, who defaulted on their rent because of desperate economic straits. The Irish reacted with a new weapon: no one would speak with him, work for him, buy from him. His name became synonymous with this kind of non-violent action.

The method itself was born even earlier. The list is long. Among others: in 1830 the “negroes” in the US declared a “boycott” of slave-produced products. The later Civil Rights movement started with a boycott of the Montgomery bus company that seated blacks and whites separately. During the American Revolution, the insurgents declared a boycott on British goods. So did Mahatma Gandhi in India.

American Jews boycotted the cars of the infamous anti-Semite Henry Ford. Jews in many countries took part in a boycott of German goods immediately after the Nazis came to power in 1933.

The Chinese boycotted Japan after the invasion of their country. The US boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow. People of conscience all over the world boycotted the products and the athletes of Apartheid South Africa and helped to bring it to its knees.

All these campaigns used a basic democratic right: every person is entitled to refuse to buy from people he detests. Everyone can refuse to support with his money causes which contradict his innermost moral convictions.

It is this right that has been put to the test in Israel this week.

IN 1997, Gush Shalom declared a boycott of the products of the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. We believe that these settlements, which are being set up with the express purpose of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, are endangering the future of Israel.

The press conference, in which we announced this step, was not attended by a single Israeli journalist. But the boycott gathered momentum. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis do not buy settlement products. The European Union, which has a trade agreement that practically treats Israel as a member of the union, was induced to enforce the clause that excludes products of the settlements from these privileges.

There are now hundreds of factories in the settlements. They were literally compelled, or seduced, to go there, because the (stolen) land there is far cheaper than in Israel proper. They enjoy generous government subsidies and tax exemptions, and they can exploit Palestinian workers for ridiculous wages. The Palestinians have no other way of supporting their families than to toil for their oppressors.

Our boycott was designed, among other things, to counter these advantages. And indeed, several big enterprises have already given in and moved out, under pressure from foreign investors and buyers. Alarmed, the settlers instructed their lackeys in the Knesset to draft a law that would counter this boycott.

Last Monday, the “Boycott Law” was enacted, setting off an unprecedented storm in the country. Already Tuesday morning, Gush Shalom submitted to the Supreme Court a 22 page application to annul this law.

THE “BOYCOTT LAW” is a very clever piece of work. Obviously, it was not drafted by the parliamentary simpletons who introduced it, but by some very sophisticated legal minds, probably financed by the Casino barons and Evangelical crazies who support the extreme Right in Israel.

First of all, the law is disguised as a means to fight the de-legitimization of the State of Israel throughout the world. The law bans all calls for the boycott of the State of Israel, “including the areas under Israeli control”. Since there are not a dozen Israelis who call for the boycott of the state, it is clear that the real and sole purpose is to outlaw the boycott of the settlements.

In its initial draft, the law made this a criminal offense. That would have suited us fine: we were quite willing to go to prison for this cause. But the law, in its final form, imposes sanctions that are another thing.

According to the law, any settler who feels that he has been harmed by the boycott can demand unlimited compensation from any person or organization calling for the boycott – without having to prove any actual damage. This means that each of the 300,000 settlers can claim millions from every single peace activist associated with the call for boycott, thus destroying the peace movement altogether.

AS WE point out in our application to the Supreme Court, the law is clearly unconstitutional. True, Israel has no formal constitution, but several “basic laws” are considered by the Supreme Court to function effectively as such.

First, the law clearly contravenes the basic right to freedom of expression. A call for a boycott is a legitimate political action, much as a street demonstration, a manifesto or a mass petition.

Second, the law contravenes the principle of equality. The law does not apply to any other boycott that is now being implemented in Israel: from the religious boycott of stores that sell non-kosher meat (posters calling for this cover the walls of the religious quarters in Jerusalem and elsewhere), to the recent very successful call to boycott the producers of cottage cheese because of their high price. The call of right-wing groups to boycott artists who have not served in the army will be legal, the declaration by left-wing artists that they will not appear in the settlements will be illegal.

Since these and other provisions of the law clearly violate the Basic Laws, the Legal Advisor of the Knesset, in a highly unusual step, published his opinion that the law is unconstitutional and undermines “the core of democracy”. Even the supreme governmental legal authority, the “legal advisor of the government”, has published a statement saying that the law in “on the border” of unconstitutionality. Being mortally afraid of the settlers, he added that he will defend it in court nevertheless. The opportunity for this is not far off: the Supreme Court has given him 60 days to respond to our petition.

A SMALL group of minor parliamentarians is terrorizing the Knesset majority and can pass any law at all. The power of the settlers is immense, and moderate right-wing members are rightly afraid that, if they are not radical enough, they will not be re-elected by the Likud Central Council, which selects the candidates for the party list. This creates a dynamic of competition: who can appear the most radical.

No wonder that one anti-democratic law follows another: a law that practically bars Arab citizens from living in localities of less than 400 families. A law that takes away the pension rights of former Knesset members who do not show up for police investigations (like Azmi Bishara.) A law that abolishes the citizenship of people convicted of “assisting terrorism”. A law that obliges NGOs to disclose donations by foreign governmental institutions. A law that gives preference for civil service positions to people who have served in the army (thus automatically excluding almost all Arab citizens). A law that outlaws any commemoration of the 1948 Naqba (the expulsion of Arab inhabitants from areas conquered by Israel). An extension of the law that prohibits (almost exclusively) Arab citizens, who marry spouses from the Palestinian territories, to live with them in Israel.

Soon to be enacted is a bill that forbids NGOs to accept donations of more than 5000 dollars from abroad, a bill that will impose an income tax of 45% on any NGO that is not specifically exempted by the government, a bill to compel universities to sing the national anthem on every possible occasion, the appointment of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry to investigate the financial resources of left-wing [sic] organizations.

Looming over everything else is the explicit threat of right-wing factions to attack the hated “liberal” Supreme Court directly, shear it of its ability to overrule unconstitutional laws and control the appointment of the Supreme Court judges.

FIFTY-ONE YEARS ago, on the eve of the Eichmann trial, I wrote a book about Nazi Germany. In the last chapter, I asked: “Can It Happen Here?”

My answer still stands: yes, it can.

American Jews discuss boykott of Israel

Many Jews wish to see Israel end the occupation; abide by international humanitarian law, human rights laws and precepts; and meet its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. Look up the initiative here

Boikott-vedtaket i Arbeiderpartiet i Bergen

Årsmøtet i Arbeiderpartiet i Bergen vedtok lørdag 13 februar følgende internasjonale uttalelse:

Situasjonen i Midt-Østen – Den humanitære krisen i Gaza krever handling

Siden angrepet på Gaza for ett år siden, opprettholder Israel en omfattende blokade av Gaza. Det er umulig å få inn nødvendige materialer og utstyr for å bygge opp, sykehus, skoler, vannforsyning og bolighus som fortsatt ligger i ruiner. Blokaden hindrer også nødvendige forsyninger av mat og medisiner. Blokaden er den viktigste grunnen til at minst tre fjerdedeler av de 1,5 millioner mennesker som bor i Gaza lever under FNs fattigdomsgrense – 2 amerikanske dollar om dagen. 56 % av befolkningen er barn og unge under 18 år.
Redd Barna beskriver situasjonen for barna i Gaza slik: Nå, ett år etter krigen, sliter fremdeles brorparten av de 750 000 barna i Gaza med å komme i gang med hverdagslivet igjen. Leveforholdene er vanskelige:

-Tusener bor fremdeles sammen med familiene sine i telt eller i de overfylte leilighetene til slektninger.
-Mange har mistet alle eiendelene sine i krigen – alle klærne, lekene og bøkene.
-Mange av barna i Gaza har ikke vært hos lege eller sykepleier det siste året enda de egentlig har behov for medisinsk behandling.
-Mer enn halvparten av familiene har ikke tilgang til rent vann.
-Barna går på overfylte skoler. Mange av skolene må undervise i flere skift.

Dette skyldes ikke at det internasjonale samfunn ikke har bevilget penger til gjenoppbyggingen av Gaza. 30 milliarder kroner fra omverdenen er stilt til disposisjon til gjenoppbyggingen i Gaza. Til tross for dette er så godt som ingenting gjenoppbygget. Årsaken er at Israel stopper alle byggematerialer ved grensen.
16 internasjonale nødhjelpsorganisasjoner krevde før jul at verdenssamfunnet må legge økt press på Israel for å få opphevet blokaden, slik at innbyggerne i Gaza slipper å bli kollektivt avstraffet i årevis. Til tross for at Israels blokade er i strid med folkeretten og humanitært er helt uakseptabel, fortsetter den uten tegn til oppmykning. Rapporten fra nødhjelps-organisasjonene forteller at til tross for at krigen har ført til økt behov for medisinsk hjelp utenfor Gaza, så har israelske myndigheter ofte nektet alvorlig syke pasienter å få behandling på Vestbredden, i Øst-Jerusalem, i Israel eller Jordan.

Gjennom sine bevilgninger til gjenoppbygging og mange resolusjoner har det internasjonale samfunn forsøkt å påvirke Israel til å heve blokaden. Så langt har man ikke maktet å hjelpe innbyggerne i Gaza i året som er gått. Situasjonen i Gaza er en humanitær katastrofe. En unødvendig humanitær katastrofe. Hjelpen står ved grensen, men Israels blokade hindrer hjelpen å nå fram. Vi kan ikke forholde oss passive til en situasjon hvor uskyldige barn, unge og sivile blir utsatt for kollektive straffetiltak.

Arbeiderpartiet i Bergen vil:

1. at Norge må aktivt søke konfliktløsning omkring den spente situasjonen mellom Palestina og Israel. Norge må aktivt bruke sitt internasjonale nettverk og diplomatiske kanaler ovenfor FN, EU og Nato for å søke dialog og løsning. Man må legge press på Israel for å oppheve blokade som i seg selv genererer mer konflikt og hat.
2. at så lenge Israel blokkerer for humanitær hjelp og hjelp til gjenoppbyggingen i Gaza, bør Norge – sammen med andre land – gå til økonomisk boikott av Israel.