As part of the competition between the coalition’s members on who can enact more anti-democratic laws, this has to be the most foolish one. According to this law, which was proposed by MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) and Roy Folkman (Kulanu) and is based on a law from 2011, the expression “a boycott of the State of Israel” is defined as a boycott imposed on a person or a product, including people or products from the West Bank area and the settlements.
“We can both feel national pride and believe in human rights," MK Folkman said during the Knesset discussion on the legislation. "We can also defend Israel's name and dignity, and there's no shame in that.” But the last thing that this patriotic law does is defend Israel’s name and dignity.
One of the absurd outcomes of this law will be that many people who have been fighting the anti-Israel boycott movement for years, but are in favor of boycotting the territories, will now be included in the list of people barred entry to Israel. In other words, those fighting the anti-Israel boycott movement will be boycotted by the state from now on. We are talking about quite a few Jewish American liberals, whose Zionism is different to MK Smotrich’s Zionism. The efficiency of these people’s battle for Israel is ten times higher than the official PR done by the government’s messengers, who are funded by public funds worth millions.
Philosopher Michael Walzer, one of the leading intellectuals in the United States, holds a Zionist world view and has been fighting the anti-Israel boycott movement for years but supports a boycott of the settlements. In a recent interview with Haaretz he said: “I can assure you that (the law) will greatly help the BDS movement… I have already received emails from people who have been critical of the Israeli government but also of BDS, writing that at this point, we might as well join BDS.”
This law is so bad and harmful, that even institutionalized Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have warned that it will actually hurt Israel and interfere with their efforts to fight the boycotts against the country, because from now on it will make it more difficult for them to present Israel to the American public as a democratic and pluralistic state.
In fact, the law has already caused damage: Within just a week, more than 100 American researchers have already signed a petition in which they are threatening not to visit Israel.
Contrary to the statement made by one of the law’s proposers, MK Folkman, that he believes in human rights, the new law critically undermines the principles democracy and human rights. It is damaging to the right to freedom of movement and the right to freedom of speech of people whose views do not match those of the Israeli government. It also harms Palestinians with a temporary residency permit who live in Israel for the purpose of family reunification, among other things. The Justice Ministry’s stand, which sought to exclude them from the law, was rejected, and from now on they will be exposed to a revocation of their rights after expressing political opinions.
This law is also characterized by an extraordinary amount of hypocrisy. On the one hand, it gives the interior minister the authority to act as a commissar of political opinions and bar people from entering based on their views on boycotting the territories. On the other hand, the Israeli government itself has signed scientific cooperation agreement with different countries, including a major prestigious scientific agreement with the European Union, known as Horizon 2020, in which the state pledged that the agreement would not apply to scientific activity taking place in the West Bank, thereby basically joining the boycott against Israeli activity in the territories. In this case, the state gave up its dignity and national pride in return for a few hundred million euros.