Anti Boycott Bill May Only Bolster Image of “Middle East’s Only Democracy”: Update

Posted on July 17, 2011


The Jerusalem Post is reporting that a Kadima member of Knesset has introduced legislation to over-turn the anti-boycott bill passed last week. Kadima, as a block, voted the legislation down. The bill would allow people and organizations that advocate boycotts to be sued by the target of the boycott [or anyone else], creating ironic results for this venerable method of direct action that helped end apartheid in both the US and South Africa.

Israel may use bullets, bombs, economic embargo, indefinite detention, deportation and movement restrictions in territories it controls and in which its citizens live with the full force of Israeli law behind them; but it does have standards.


Two things here. One: In the post Double-Oh’s, media overload has created a backlash against information, where the effects of constant harried scanning exacerbate those of naked dumbness, doubling the number of ill-informed people over night. I first noticed this when I was at Berkeley a year or two ago, where relatively bright people looked like borderline imbeciles whenever they opened their mouth because they were assigned more reading than any human could efficiently absorb, and their understanding was a product of skimming, and bridging the gaps with all the accumulated knowledge a nineteen year old brings to the world. Imagine the compounded effect of dozens of issues both important and ephemeral, in a thousand iterations on an hourly basis. Imagine a boot stepping on a human frontal lobe forever. If you use Twitter,as I recently have begun to, you needn’t imagine at all.

All that is to say, I don’t think that the bill will bolster Israel’s democracy, no matter what happens to it, nor the domestic reaction to it in Israel. That’s why I put the idea in quotes. A country can’t rule over several million people who have no say in their government and are the target, rather than the beneficiaries,  of its defense budget and still portray itself as a democracy, no matter how strained the term has become. I thought that was clear.

The issue, however, is on a fairly steady and predictable trajectory to bolster the illusion that Israel is a vibrant democracy.

Two: apropos, this editorial which reflects everything I’m saying, but in the voice of liberal Israel itself.

This is the one. Don’t let what we like to call the relative calm here, fool you. When the Knesset passed the boycott law Monday night, it changed the history of the state of Israel.

[…] if the Boycott Law makes it past challenges filed by human rights and pro-peace organizations in Israel’s High Court of Justice, then anything goes, beginning with democracy itself.

They [Netanyahu and Barak] stayed away because they know that this is the stain that may prove indelible. The Boycott Law is the litmus test for Israeli democracy, the threshold test for Israeli fascism. It’s a test of moderates everywhere who care about the future of this place.


Q. Who benefits from all of this [the anti-boycott bill]?

For the hard right, this is a clear win-win. First, there is the language of the law, through which Israel effectively and without fanfare annexes the settlements, and, in so doing, acknowledges that the settlements have annexed the state of Israel.

Etcetera. The issue of the occupation of Palestine has never been one of right or left, except in some meaningless details. If the winners of the anti-boycott bill are the hard right, then the winners if, and probably when, the law is struck down will be the left. Settlements were the left’s idea to begin with; that breaker of bones and great peacemaker, Yitzahk Rabin invested the first state funds into colonization. And throughout Oslo, the left and right have kept pace with one another in the continued advancement of the colonial project in the territories, to the point where it cannot be undone, and indeed, can only serve to create a state that even the most ambivalent and Israel-friendly will be forced to call apartheid.

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