Op-Ed: From Israel's Press: Boycott Law
Emanuel Shilo, Besheva Editor in ChiefEmanuel Shilo is Editor-in-Chief of the popular, rightist Hebrew language weekly newspaper "Besheva", read by hundreds of thousands of Israelis.
Last week the Israeli right was still out on the streets demonstrating against the abrogation of its right to free speech. The arrest of two respected rabbis for an approbation they had written for the controversial book “The King’s Truth” kicked up a countrywide storm.
The religious public protested the lack of honor shown the rabbis and their lack of freedom in expressing Torah-true opinions.
The Israeli left and the courts led a public campaign against the “impertinent” rabbis who did not answer a police summons. These self-appointed guardians of law and democracy engaged in incitement, calling for violence and bloodshed in the conflict with the rabbis and their followers. Only unconditional surrender would satisfy them.
How the wheel turns…
As if to give the left a taste of their own medicine by letting it find out how someone whose rights to free speech and protest are curtailed feels, the Knesset passed the Boycott Law this week. The law calls for punishing organizers, in Israel or anywhere else, of boycotts against Israeli entities, including those in Judea and Samaria.
Have no fear, the hatred-mongering leftist NGO’s won’t be indicted in a criminal court. Only the rabbis faced criminal investigations. No one will take a leftist’s fingerprints or stop his car to take him in for questioning. The new law treats boycotts as a civil offense punishable by fining and the loss of government tenders.
As expected, a cat’s chorus began to howl as soon as the law passed The leftists in the political, legal, cultural , academic and media spheres are furious about the results of the democratic process that took place in the Knesset.
This gang of law enforcers, accustomed to passing whatever advances their goals within the legal system, finds it hard to get used to a new reality. After all, the law belongs to them, democratic process is theirs, democracy itself is their direct inheritance from the founders of the state.
Just who do Ze’ev Elkin and Binyamin Netanyahu think they are to use democracy against its true owners? The most strident of the left, those who told the rabbis and their supporters last week that no one is above the law in Israel, are now announcing publicly that they have not intentions of adhering to this new law.
Does the left not notice the contradiction here? Do they not realize that supporting interrogation of rabbis and limiting their rights to free speech does not jive with non- acceptance of the boycott law which they claim limits free speech? If no one is above the law, why are they putting themselves above a law just passed in the Knesset?
The Boycott Law and the Anti-Racism Law
Some of the left’s spokesmen complained that the new law will allow a boycott against an entity or person for any reason except his place of residence. They have forgotten that there is a law extant that defines as a criminal offense, not just a civil one, any action against a person based on his ethnic origins. This is the Anti-Racism Law, one of the tools familiar to assistant Attorney General Shai Nitzan and his crew.
That law created a situation where one may incite against someone because of his religion, place of residence, political stance and value system, but not – heaven forfend - because of his race. You can demonstrate against having hareidi-religious live in a secular neighborhood, but not against Moslems in a Jewish one. You can slander yeshiva students,“settlers”, hareidim, IDF soldiers, Likud members, but not Arabs.
Since the Anti-Racism Law is a “leftist” law which limits free speech in order to protect the Arabs, its being on Israel’s lawbooks is taken for granted.
This law enabled Meri Kahane’s followers to be deprived of the right to vote for the person who reflected their views. It allowed the Israeli police to limit the actions of activists calling for Jewish,not Arab, labor. The law is behind the public and legal storm over rabbis’ signatures on a letter calling for not renting houses to Arabs in Jewish cities. These limitations of free speech are praised by the left, because those being denied civil rights are their enemies.
We must be thankful that the patriotic majority in the Knesset finally had the courage to use lawmaking to advance its views. This is still being done hesitantly, and in much more gingerly fashion than the left does. The law that was passed this week does not contain harsh punitive measures, its main benefit is as a declaration of principles.
Its passing is a way of saying that the settling of Judea and Samaria is legitimate and that boycott of it is wrong, just as boycotting any Israeli body or institution because of the Arab-Israeli conflict is wrong.
A Good Start
The political apparatus that succeeded in passing the law must go on working. The patriotic Jewish majority must stand tall and have the courage to fight back against the left and its supporters outside Israel. It must put boycott organizers and issuers of arrest warrants against Israelis in their place all over the world.
The Jewish coalition passed a law this week whose main value is in the principles it expresses, it now must create facts on the ground.. One of the next steps is that the head of the coalition, who is one of the heads of the Eretz Yisrael Caucus,must garner a patriotic majority in the Knesset and begin instituting Israeli, rather than the present civil administration’s, law, on Judea and Samaria. It will have to stand strong against the attempts of the legal oligarchy to undermine the authority of the Knesset.
The leftist minority that came out against the democratic process is hoping that the Supreme Court will come to its aid. It expects Supreme Court Head Dorit Beinisch and her colleagues to be on its side as is its wont, and will use the legal authority the justices took for themselves to try to repeal the law passed by the Knesset.
Israel's Supreme Court
It is a known fact that the use of the courts to decide on a law’s constitutionality is far from accepted in Israel. Israel, unlike the United States, has no constitution, but has an activist Supreme Court ever since former Chief Justice Aaron Barak’s term. He declared, after the basic law protecting “a person’s honor and liberty” was passed, that a constituional revolution had taken place in Israel which gave the judiciary authority that most of the legistlative branch which passed the law never intended to give it.
Supporters of the judicial oligarchy claim that it uses its powers sparingly and almost never declares a law illegal. However, it is also true that the very ability to repeal laws prevents the attempt at passage of new laws, if is felt they might be repealed by the court.
The Knesset’s legal advisor tried to prevent the boycott law from coming to a vote by saying that it was in contravention of existing law, while the Attorney General agreed to represent the government, but hinted that he will find it difficult to defend the governent’s position.
The Knesset members did well to ignore the legal whip raised threateningly over their heads. They warned that if the boycott law is repealed, they would react by passing a law limiting the judges’ authority to intervene in the Knesset’s work and would also change the way justices are chosen, making it mandatory for them to obtain Knesset approval.
[That is not the case today,where they are chosen by a committee of nine made up of three Supreme Court justices including the Chief Justice, two MK’s (one of them from the opposition, traditionally), two members of the lawyer’s association (who may hesitate to antagonize justices on the committee before whom they must appear) and two ministers, one of whom is the Minister of Justice. There is no body that reviews these appointments-ed.]
There is room for various approaches to the question of the court’s supervision of legislative activity. However, it is all too clear that the Israeli lawmaker did not intend for the judiciary to have the authority it claims for itself.
It is also abundantly clear that having this kind of authority necessitates a balanced makeup of the court and a new method for choosing Supreme Court justices. One cannot settle for continued judicial activism when judges are chosen undemocratically with no thought of balancing the court. If the judges wish their own worldview to rule the country, the judges must be appointed so that they represent the spirit and wishes of the people. This is in important goal in itself that the present coalition should strive to reach.