Alerts and Reports 

"Boycott of cottage cheese is allowed, but not if it settler-made cheese"

Adv. Gaby Lasky: “Rejection of the appeal against the boycott law changes the basic constitutional rules in Israel. Boycott of cottage cheese is allowed, but not if it settler-made cottage cheese”

Yesterday (Wed. April 15) the Supreme Court in Jerusalem rejected the appeal against the “Anti Boycott Law” which was lodged by former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom and other Israeli peace and human rights groups, and keeping in force the law enacted several years by the right-wing majority in the Knesset - criminalizing any call for a boycott of Israel and defining a boycott of settlement products as also being “a boycott of Israel”.

"This is a deplorable ruling with far-reaching implications” said Adv. Gaby Lasky, who represented Gush Shalom in this appeal. “The Justices effectively changed the basic Israeli constitutional law as we had known them, giving the interest of maintaining settlements in the Occupied Territories a precedence over the fundamental right of all citizens to Freedom of Political Expression. In fact, the Supreme Court has been captured by the political precepts of anti-democratic right wingers, giving its stamp of approval to a piece of legislation designed to gag one side of the political spectrum. "

Lasky went on to say: "This is a ruling which should have been simple and straightforward. The court should have come down on the side of the Freedom of Expression - especially since the Supreme Court itself had previously laid down clear limits on what are the grounds for infringing that basic freedom. A clear and present threat to public order or national security, and a prohibition upon explicit calls for violence or racism – hitherto, these were the sole grounds which might justify an infringement of Freedom of Expression. With the new ruling, the court gave in to an oppressive parliamentary majority, which invented new and unacceptable grounds for striking at the Freedom of Expression.

"Under the legal situation created in the State of Israel by the Anti Boycott Law and now ratified by the Supreme Court, it is acceptable to call for a boycott of cottage cheese due to its high price - but absolutely forbidden to call for a boycott of the same cheese because it is produced in a settlement" said Lasky. (The reference is to the “Cottage Cheese Boycott Campaign” which had touched off the mass Social Protest Movement in 2011 Israel).

Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, which had been the first to lodge the above appeal, expressed its disappointment with the deplorable ruling, which keeps in place the ban imposed by the right-wing majority in the Knesset – making any citizen or group calling for the boycott of settlements and their products liable to severe penalties. The Supreme Court’s ruling is particularly disturbing and ominous at this juncture – exactly when the agenda of Netanyahu’s talks with the extreme-right parties on forming a new governing coalition includes proposals for new draconian measures, aimed at dealing devastating blows to the Supreme Court itself as well as to the Freedom of Expression and Assembly in Israel.

It is unacceptable to have a law which states that “a boycott of an Israeli-controlled territory” is tantamount to a boycott of Israel itself. There is an essential difference between the legitimate sovereign territory of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967 - which are not a part of Israel under International Law, nor indeed under Israel’s own laws. The building of settlements in the Occupied Territories is a violation of International Law. The main purpose for which these settlements are established is to make it impossible for the Palestinians to ever create their own independent state - thereby also making it impossible for Israel’s citizens to ever reach peace with their neighbors.

It is the right of those who oppose the settlements not to consume the products produced there, not to fund with their money to a settlement project to which they are strongly opposed. It is the right of activists to make a loud and clear call for a boycott of settlement products. It is the right of such organizations as Gush Shalom to compile a detailed list of settlement products, post it for the broadest public view, spread it at the entrances to supermarkets and call upon customers not to consume the products appearing on it. Also at the present moment, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling, we reiterate and reaffirm our view that this right is valid. In recent years, Gush Shalom had been forced to conduct activities with the Anti Boycott Law as a Damocles’ Sword ever hanging overhead. We are sorry to find the Justices ruling that this sword would continue to hanging over our heads.

It should be noted that, regardless of the whatever any of us does or desires, the global movement to boycott Israel (BDS) is gathering an increasing momentum, due to the policy of occupation and oppression enacted by the government of Israel. Many people around the world - including many Jews – have come to feel that Israel's actions in recent years justify the imposition of a boycott. The only real way for Israel to deal with this boycott campaign is to change its policy in the Occupied Territories, which pours ever more fuel on the boycott conflagration.

Most such boycotters are abroad, out of reach of the Israeli law. Punitive measures against those who are subject to Israeli law would do nothing but exacerbate the situation.