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Who is annexing Whom?
Uri Avnery--March 26, 2011--
Who is annexing Whom?
IN A rare late-night session, the Knesset has finally
adopted two obnoxious racist laws. Both are clearly
directed against Israels Arab citizens, a fifth of the
The first makes it possible to annul the citizenship of
persons found guilty of offences against the security of
the state. Israel prides itself on having a great variety
of such laws. Annulling citizenship on such grounds is
contrary to international law and conventions.
The second is more sophisticated. It allows communities of
less than 400 families to appoint admission committees
which can prevent unsuitable persons from living there.
Very shrewdly, it specifically forbids the rejection of
candidates because of race, religion etc. but that
paragraph is tantamount to a wink. An Arab applicant will
simply be rejected because of his many children or lack of
A majority of members did not bother to show up for the
vote. After all, it was late and they have families, too.
Who knows, some may even have been ashamed to vote.
But far worse is a third law that is certain to pass its
final stages within a few weeks: the law to outlaw the
boycott of the settlements.
SINCE ITS early stages, the original crude text of this
bill has been refined somewhat.
As it stands now, the law will punish any person or
association publicly calling for a boycott of Israel
economic, academic or cultural. Israel, according to this
law, means any Israeli enterprise or person, in Israel or
in any territory controlled by Israel. Simply put: it is
all about the settlements. And not only about the boycott
of the products of the settlements, which was initiated by
Gush Shalom some 13 years ago, but also about the recent
refusal of actors to perform in the settlement of Ariel and
the call by academics not to support the so-called
University Center there. It also applies, of course, to any
call for the boycott of an Israeli university or an Israeli
This is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation: it is
anti-democratic, discriminatory, annexationist, and
EVERYBODY HAS the right to buy or not to buy whatever he or
she desires, from whomsoever he or she chooses. That is so
obvious that it needs no confirmation. It is a part of the
right to free expression guaranteed by any constitution
worth its salt, and an essential element of a free market
I may buy from the store on the corner, because I like the
owner, and shun the supermarket opposite, which exploits
its employees. Companies expend huge sums of money to
convince me to buy their products rather than others.
What about ideologically motivated campaigns? Years ago,
while on a visit to New York, I was persuaded not to buy
grapes produced in California, because the owners oppressed
the Mexican migrant workers. This boycott went on for a
long time and was if I remember right successful.
Nobody dared to suggest that such boycotts should be
Here in Israel, rabbis of many communities regularly paste
up posters calling upon their flock not to buy at certain
shops, which they believe are not kosher, or not kosher
enough. Such calls are commonplace.
Such publications are fully compatible with human rights.
Citizens for whom pork is an abomination, have the right to
be informed about which shops sell pork and which do not.
As far as I know, no one in Israel has ever contested this
Sooner or later, some anti-religious groups will publish
calls to boycott kosher shops, which pay the rabbis - some
of them the most intolerant of their kind heavy levies
for their certificates. They support a vast religious
establishment that openly advocates turning Israel into a
Halakha state the Jewish equivalent of a Muslim
Sharia state. Many thousands of Kashrut supervisors and
myriads of other religious functionaries are paid for by
the largely secular public.
So what about an anti-rabbinical boycott? It can hardly be
forbidden, since religious and anti-religious are
guaranteed equal rights.
SO IT appears that not all ideologically motivated boycotts
are wrong. Nor do the initiators of this particular bill
racists of the Lieberman school, Likud rightists and
Kadima centrists claim this. For them, boycotts are
only wrong if they are directed against the nationalist,
annexationist policies of this government.
This is explicitly stated in the law itself. Boycotts are
unlawful if they are directed against the State of Israel
not, for example, by the State of Israel against some other
state. No Israeli in his right mind would retroactively
condemn the boycott imposed by world Jewry on Germany
immediately after the Nazis came to power a boycott that
served as a pretext for Josef Goebbels when he unleashed on
April 1, 1933, the first Nazi anti-Semitic boycott
(Deutsche wehrt euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!)
Nor does any upright Zionist find fault with the boycott
measures passed by Congress, under intense Jewish pressure,
against the late Soviet Union, in order to break down the
barriers to free Jewish emigration. These measures were
No less successful was the worldwide boycott against the
Apartheid regime in South Africa a boycott warmly
welcomed by the South African liberation movement, though
it also hurt the African workers employed by the boycotted
white businesses (an argument now repeated by Israeli
settlers, who exploit Palestinian laborers for starvation
So political boycotts are not wrong, as long as they are
directed against others. Its the old Hottentot morality
of colonial lore if I steal your cow, thats right. If
you steal my cow, thats wrong.
Rightists can call for action against left-wing
organizations. Leftists cannot call for action against
right-wing organizations. Its as simple as that.
BUT THE law is not only anti-democratic and discriminatory,
it is also blatantly annexationist.
By a simple semantic trick, in less than a sentence, the
lawmakers do what successive Israeli government did not
dare to do: they annex the Palestinian occupied territories
Or maybe its the other way round: are the settlers
The word settlements does not appear in the text. God
forbid. Much as the word Arabs does not appear in any of
the other laws.
Instead, the text simply states that calls for the boycott
of Israel, which are forbidden by the law, include the
boycott of Israeli institutions and enterprises in all
territories controlled by Israel. This includes, of course,
the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
This is the core of the matter. Everything else is
The initiators want to silence our call for boycotting the
settlements, which is gathering momentum throughout the
THE IRONY of the matter is that they may achieve the exact
When we started the boycott, our stated objective was to
draw a clear line between Israel in its recognized borders
the Green Line and the settlements. We do not advocate
a boycott of the State of Israel which, we believe, sends
the wrong message and pushes the Israeli center into the
waiting arms of the extreme right (The whole world is
against us!) A boycott of the settlements, we think, helps
to re-institute the Green Line and make a clear
This law does the exact opposite. By wiping out the line
between the State of Israel and the settlements, it plays
into the hands of those who call for a boycott of Israel in
the belief (mistaken, I think) that a unified Apartheid
state would pave the way for a democratic future.
Recently, the folly of the law was demonstrated by a French
judge in Grenoble. This incident concerned the quasi-
monopolistic Israeli export company for agricultural
products, Agrexco. The judge suspected the company of
fraud, because products of the settlements were falsely
declared as coming from Israel. This could well be fraud,
too, because Israeli exports to Europe are entitled to
preferential treatment which the products of the
settlements are not.
Such incidents are occurring more and more often in
various European countries. This law will cause them to
IN THE original version, boycotters would have committed a
criminal offence and been fined. That would have caused us
great joy, because our refusal to pay the fines and and
subsequent imprisonment would have dramatized the matter.
This clause has now been omitted. But every single company
in the settlements and, indeed, every single settler who
feels hurt by the boycott can sue - for unlimited damages -
any group calling for the boycott and any individual
connected with the call. Since the settlers are tightly
organized and enjoy unlimited funds from all kinds of
casino owners and sleazy sex merchants, they can file
thousands of suits and practically paralyze the boycott
movement. That, of course, is the aim.
The fight is far from over. Upon the enactment of the law,
we shall call upon the Supreme Court to annul it, as
contrary to Israels fundamental constitutional principles
and basic human rights.
As Menachem Begin used to say: There are still judges in
Or are there?
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