The only democracy? Israeli lawmakers seek to criminalize boycott, supervise “political bias” in academia

Posted: June 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

A new Knesset bill submitted by 25 Knesset members this week would make it illegal, if passed, for Israeli citizens to support or aid boycott on Israel or on Israeli products. Israelis who would initiate or help such boycotts – even if they deal only with the settlements – could be fined and forced to pay compensations to those hurt by the boycott.

The bill was initiated by Likud party members and supported by senior members of Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party, including party whip Dalia Itzik and Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tsachi Hanegbi.

This is from the report on Ynet:

As to individuals who are not citizens or residents of Israel, their right to enter the country will be deprived for at least 10 years should they be involved in a boycott. Another measure would ban foreign entities or anyone on their behalf from engaging in any actions using Israeli bank accounts, Israeli stocks, or Israeli land.

The bill’s initiators say the move aims to “protect the State of Israel in general and its citizens in particular against academic, economic, and other boycotts.”

Addressing the Palestinian boycott, MK Itzik said: “The Palestinians are causing harm with this attitude…issues of this type should be resolve at the negotiating table.”

The Hebrew version of the article cites MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), who innitiated the bill, explaining that the new law will specifically target Israeli professors who support academic boycott. But the problem with this bill goes far beyond the question of boycott. This is yet another attempt to limit political action in Israel and to prevent none-violent resistance to the occupation.

A few months ago Israel passed a law against mentioning the Nakba – the Palestinian disaster of 1948 – attacking the very core of freedom of speech, which is the right to hold one’s own historical narrative; now Israel is looking to forbid a universally accepted form of political action.

Most troubling is the fact that these measures enjoy the support of both coalition and opposition parties. It seems that there is an automatic majority in the Knesset for any bill that would criminalize ideas which are not well within the political consensus (and the public is only too happy to support these initiatives). Israel is becoming one of these democracies in which you are allowed to hold and express any sort of idea, as long as it’s the right one.


Israeli lawmakers are looking to apply political supervision even on what was considered the symbol of Israeli freedom of speech. a few weeks ago, the Knesset Education Committee ordered the Committee for Academic Education (the supervising body on all Israeli universities) to look into “the anti-Zionist political bias” of courses in history and Political Science in Israeli Universities. Here is a link to the protocol of the Education committee’s meeting (Hebrew). No immediate measures were applied, but just having such a debate – the committee members are actually debating how to force professors to put more Zionist material on their students’ reading lists – is dangerous enough, especially in a country in which academic education is sponsored by the state. And as we saw in the case of the Nakba bill, those kinds of debates tend to lead to legislative action.


Israel was never a democracy when it came too the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza, who are subject to a separate legal system and have very limited civil rights. Now we are witnessing rapid erosion in the political rights of Israeli citizens as well. Personally, I get the feeling that Israel is following the steps of South Africa in the 80′s, where opposing Apartheid was considered as opposing South Africa itself, and dealt with accordingly. When an act like asking people not to buy settlements product becomes a criminal offense; and when even some of the stuff posted on this blog might be considered illegal, referring to Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East would look like a bad joke.

The real irony is that with every such measure, Israeli lawmakers are further justifying the very acts they want to ban.

8 Comments on “The only democracy? Israeli lawmakers seek to criminalize boycott, supervise “political bias” in academia”

  1. 1 Gene said at 6:47 am on June 12th, 2010:

    It’s the only democracy, but it is at war. Even in the US you had laws during WWII that you don’t have during peace time.

    Even in a democracy TREASON is never legal.

  2. 2 Yishai Kohen said at 12:46 pm on June 12th, 2010:

    Gene is right.

    Dissent is one thing. Treachery is another. If you are a traitor to your country- especially during war, then you lose your rights.

  3. 3 John said at 6:47 pm on June 12th, 2010:

    Who defines “treason”? The Alien and Sedition Act was the lowest point of the early US Republic: it gave the Federalist judges the power to jail anyone who insulted President Adams, or who could be called a supporter of France.

    Who decides?

    What is “treason”?

    In 2003, President Bush invaded Iraq on the grounds that (a) Iraq had a secret stash of mustard gas, or (b) Iraq had conspired with Al Queda to bomb the World Trade Center, or (c) that liberating Iraq would start a “democratic tsunami” sweeping across the Middle East. Right-wing leaders shouted “on to Teheran”, and argued that “while you have the freedom to speak, we have the freedom to punish you if you say things we don’t like”.

    The largest radio network in the US banned a popular country-western group called The Dixie Chicks; right-wing DJs smasjed their CDs.

    It happened that there was no poison gas in Iraq; that the Saddam government was bitterly opposed to any ultra-religious terror groups because they could not be trusted to obey Saddam; that the “democratic tsunami” was a fantasy of the neo-conservatives.

    It took a couple of years to wake up. Without the ability to criticize, the US, collectively, lost the ability to think.

  4. 4 Yishai Kohen said at 8:00 pm on June 12th, 2010:


    If you want to know the legal definition in the US, look at your Constitution, Article III.

    Section. 3. Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

    Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as “…[a]…citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].”

    In Australia, Section 80.1 of the Criminal Code, contained in the schedule of the Criminal Code Act 1995:

    (e) engages in conduct that assists by any means whatever, with intent to assist, an enemy:

    (i) at war with the Commonwealth, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared; and

    (ii) specified by Proclamation made for the purpose of this paragraph to be an enemy at war with the Commonwealth; or

    (f) engages in conduct that assists by any means whatever, with intent to assist:

    (i) another country; or

    (ii) an organisation;

    that is engaged in armed hostilities against the Australian Defence Force; or

    … (h) forms an intention to do any act referred to in a preceding paragraph and manifests that intention by an overt act.”
    The assertion that it is treason isn’t difficult to make.

  5. 5 James said at 6:16 am on June 13th, 2010:

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”

  6. 6 John said at 2:35 pm on June 13th, 2010:

    Yishai and James,

    Reda the US Constitution carefully: the treason clause is vague enough that ot has hardly ever been invoked. It is tough to determine what it means:

    “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

    The ambiguity is in “levying war” and “adhering” and giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy.

    To many of us with children in the US military, anyone who supported the war in Iraq gave aid and comfort to the enemies of the US because that war has cost about $80 billion a year, killed 3,000 troops (and who knows how many innocent bystanders), wounded another 30,000, absorbed the entire US military — including every National Guard unit — for the last seven years. In all, done more damage to the US than all of bin Laden’s attacks combined.

    We still have a disagreement, and you can read ex-VP Cheney for his side of it.

    It is dangerous to slime people as traitors.

    It cuts off thinking. It cuts off discussion of alternatives. It makes a people brain-dead.

    What are the alternatives to perpetual war against the Palestinians — West Bank and Gaza — and the Arab countries that border Israel?

    How can there be a discussion of alternatives if anyone who disagrees with the governing line is threatened with being “sent to Siberia”?

  7. 7 Yishai Kohen said at 8:11 pm on June 13th, 2010:


    Feel free to search for how many people have been charged withtreason here in Israel since the establishment of the state.

    Hint: You’ll have to look REALLY hard.

    Obviously, it’s a clause that nobody wants to invoke, but clearly, as per the definitions that I provided above, the assertion that it is treason isn’t difficult to make.

  8. 8 Greg said at 2:14 pm on June 14th, 2010:

    When a country is at war and someone in that country gives the enemy aid, even aid in the form of saying positive things about them (propaganda aid) that’s treason and can not be tolerated if the society is going to survive.