Harriet Sherwood’s post critical of Israel’s proposed anti-BDS legislation fails to note EU and US precedents

In July 2009, the Council of Europe’s Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling which deemed it illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods, and that making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not constitute a violation of one’s freedom of expression, as such as boycott constituted “incitement to discrimination.”

Today, Harriet Sherwood characterized as “anti-democratic” a proposed bill before the Israeli Knesset which would allow that any individual or organisation proposing a boycott could be sued for compensation by any individual or institution demonstrating it was damaged by such a call, (Israel prepares to pass law banning citizens from calling for boycotts).

The EU decision noted:

The exercise of…freedoms…carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are  prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder”

If further stated:

“The Court observed that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression had been provided for by law, being based on Articles 23 and 24 of the Press Act 1881, and that it pursued a legitimate aim, namely to protect the rights of Israeli producers.

Indeed, the U.S. has laws prohibiting individuals or companies engaged in commerce to participate in boycotts against Israel.

In fact, unlike the proposed Israeli law – which merely calls for monetary compensation for Israeli companies effected by such boycott efforts – the U.S. law stipulates that those guilty of such discriminatory boycotts can face imprisonment for up to five years.

So, the story, as it could have been told, is one of Israeli anti-boycott legislation which is at least in the spirit of legal precedents set by EU and US laws.

As with her previous post today – regarding the events surrounding Rachel Corrie’s death in 2003 – Sherwood again omits relevant information which could serve to properly frame the story.

While the civil libertarian in me, to be honest, has reservations about the proposed Knesset law, and while the devil is (as with all legislation) in the details, and reasonable people can of course disagree on the merits of the bill on various credible grounds, it’s also worth noting that it took me about 10 minutes on Google to find EU and US legal precedents necessary to properly contextualize such anti-boycott measures. My guess is that Harriet Sherwood could have done the same.

(Update, July 12th: The Israeli Knesset passed the law today. See English translation of the bill, here: boycott_prohibition_bill_27june2011-ENG).

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