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A Peaceful Boycott Should Not be a Crime

Posted on: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Keywords: Palestine, Israel, Peace Building, Middle East, Human Rights Advocacy

In its bid to maintain its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli government has launched a new offensive, this one against its own citizens. A bill that is currently before the Knesset would allow Israelis who support boycotts against Israel to be sued for damages. The bill is part of a government backlash against a small but growing number of Israelis who have taken up the tactic of boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) to bring about an end to their government’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The Real News Network recently presented this report on the bill and the Israeli BDS movement.

Human rights organizations in Israel and internationally have condemned the bill as draconian and anti-democratic. Human Rights Watch has called on the Knesset to reject it along with three other bills “that would seriously restrict the rights of Israelis to criticize the policies and actions of their government.” 

If passed, the “Boycott Prohibition” bill could be detrimental to Israeli organizations, such as the groups that comprise the Coalition of Women for Peace. CWP, as the Coalition is known, runs Who Profits, a database of corporations that benefit from the Israeli occupation. Last year, the Coalition called on the Norwegian Government Pension Fund to divest from corporations that help to maintain the occupation.

According to Yasmeen Daher, of CWP, peace and human rights activists in Israel face a range of threats beyond the government’s latest efforts to outlaw political dissent:

In the past year, we have seen an increasing wave of assaults against Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders and civil society organizations– by Israeli officials, security forces, journalists and right-wing organizations. Palestinians who engage in the popular struggle are arrested and terrorized and Israelis who protest the government’s illegal policies are marked as “traitors”. The Israeli policy regarding nonviolent protest is that any opinion that does not serve the so-called “national interest” should be persecuted, silenced and quashed.”

We may not all agree about whether boycotts are the right tactic to use at this time in our efforts to end the occupation. But we should all agree to oppose repression against activists who use non-violent tactics to press their government to comply with international law. That’s what Israeli supporters of BDS are doing and they deserve our support.

By Yifat Susskind, MADRE Policy and Communications Director

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