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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A PS on the Boycott Bill

I haven't actually read the Boycott Bill and I don't have time today to trawl the Internet in search of it. I normally like to read things before commenting on them. So I haven't read it, but it appears to me that it is a stupid idea. Mature democracies often pass bad laws and this is one of them, standing comparison with the UK's idiotic past ban on the broadcasting of Northern Ireland terrorists' voices (whose words were then instead read by "the voice of an actor") and France's awful so-called burka ban. I am a clear opponent of the anti-Israel "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" movement, but this law restricting Israelis' right to call for a boycott is a stupid, counter-productive idea. Freedom of speech must allow Israelis to call for a boycott of settlement goods, in the same way that freedom of speech would allow me to call for a boycott of British goods (oh don't tempt me). I hope that this law is revoked as soon as possible. And how come so few of the Knesset's 120 members actually voted, on something so important?

14 comments:

  1. what if people stood outside your shop every day calling for it to be boycotted because of your political views and they succeeded in having it shut down (for example)?

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  2. Has that happened in Israel? You are referring, presumably, to what happened to an Israeli shop in London. You raise a very interesting question. At what point does demonstrating outside a shop (which is a legitimate thing to do) become bullying or harassment? I have no problem with demonstrators being arrested when they break the law (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/48166/ahava-four-convicted-trespass). I do, however, believe that Israeli citizens should continue to have the right to call for a boycott of settlement goods.

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  3. With all due respect, would you mind answering the question instead of calling it "interesting".

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  4. I have answered the question.

    You asked: "what if people stood outside your shop every day calling for it to be boycotted because of your political views and they succeeded in having it shut down (for example)?"

    I answered the question thus: "At what point does demonstrating outside a shop (which is a legitimate thing to do) become bullying or harassment? I have no problem with demonstrators being arrested when they break the law (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/48166/ahava-four-convicted-trespass). I do, however, believe that Israeli citizens should continue to have the right to call for a boycott of settlement goods."

    That is my answer to your question. People in Britain have the right to demonstrate outside a shop, but not to the point at which that starts to constitute bullying or harassment, at which point they can and should be arrested and prosecuted.

    My post was about Israel, not about Israeli shops in London. I believe in freedom of speech for Israeli citizens - do you? If an Israeli citizen (living in Israel) wishes to urge his or her fellow citizens to boycott settlement goods, then I believe that s/she should be allowed to do so - do you agree?

    Do you also, like me, favour sanctions against Iran and Syria - presumably you don't want British people banned from demonstrating in favour of such sanctions?

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  5. You didn't answer the question. I will ask again:

    what if people stood outside YOUR shop every day calling for it to be boycotted because of your political views and they succeeded in having it shut down (for example)?

    would you think it ok? And if they did the same to businesses in Israel and eventually wrought economic hardship on Israel leading to its bankrupcty would you condone it all in the name of democracy?

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  6. Thanks, Richard. My post was not about people standing outside shops in London. It was about Israelis, in Israel, having the right to say: "I think that Israel's West Bank settlement policy has been a disaster for Israel, so I choose not to spend my money on settlement goods, and I urge fellow Israelis to join me in that."

    To repeat my questions to you, as you have chosen not to answer them: "I believe in freedom of speech for Israeli citizens - do you? If an Israeli citizen (living in Israel) wishes to urge his or her fellow citizens to boycott settlement goods, then I believe that s/she should be allowed to do so - do you agree?

    "Do you also, like me, favour sanctions against Iran and Syria - presumably you don't want British people banned from demonstrating in favour of such sanctions?"

    You asked me: "what if people stood outside your shop every day calling for it to be boycotted because of your political views and they succeeded in having it shut down (for example)?"

    I answered that question twice. I shall answer it a third time. Here is my answer:

    Has that happened in Israel? You are referring, presumably, to what happened to an Israeli shop in London. You raise a very interesting question. At what point does demonstrating outside a shop (which is a legitimate thing to do) become bullying or harassment? I have no problem with demonstrators being arrested when they break the law (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/48166/ahava-four-convicted-trespass). I do, however, believe that Israeli citizens should continue to have the right to call for a boycott of settlement goods.

    That is my answer to your question. People in Britain have the right to demonstrate outside a shop, but not to the point at which that starts to constitute bullying or harassment, at which point they can and should be arrested and prosecuted.

    I do not own a shop. I do not live in Israel. If, in this country, people chose to demonstrate outside my shop urging people not to shop there because they do not like my politics, then, yes, that would presumably be "OK", unless they break the law by trespassing, defaming me, inciting violence, etc.

    You also ask: "And if they did the same to businesses in Israel and eventually wrought economic hardship on Israel leading to its bankrupcty would you condone it all in the name of democracy?"

    To which my answer has to be: Yes, in the name of democracy, people have the right to say things that might have adverse economic consequences for other people.

    People are allowed to call on the British Government to adopt economic policies that would be disastrous for Britain.

    If a supermarket plans to open a big store and create jobs and prosperity in a local area, and some people oppose it on planning grounds, then they are arguably campaigning against job creation - and, in a democracy, yes, they are allowed do that, even if that creates economic hardship for others.

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  7. 1. Syrian and Iranian sanctions would be targeted at the evil rulers, not civilians like "settlers".

    2. Britain has 60 million citizens so it is unlikely that a boycott will affect it. Israel has 7 million citizens, is under attack from the BDS lobby worldwide who seek to destroy it. Plus it is being attacked by Hamas, Hezbollah aided by Syria and Iran. And now people like your good self are encouraging similar economic attacks from the inside all in the name of "democracy".

    If Israel goes uner Matthew Harris can hold his head up high and proudly announce "I was a democrat and that's all that counts".

    In my humble submission you are falling in line with those who seek Israel's destruction just because you are scared of having your credentials as a democrat challenged.

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  8. Thanks, Richard, it's disappointing that you choose to make this about me, rather than about the issue.

    Read my original post again. I am not 'siding' with anyone, least of all with those who seek Israel's destruction!

    Mrs Livni also opposes the Boycott Bill - would you accuse her of "falling in line with those who seek Israel's destruction"? Would you similarly level such an accusation at whoever wrote this JC editorial: http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/leader/51625/anti-democratic ?

    I am certainly not 'scared' of having my credentials as a democrat challenged and I find that accusation amusing.

    Governments sometimes do daft things; this Boycott Bill is an example of precisely that, hence my criticising it, just as I often criticise actions taken by British governments.

    I support the right of the BNP to campaign in elections, so long as they do so within the law, just as every other party has to campaign within the law. By your logic, I ought to ban them from campaigning, because what would happen if they got in and actually formed a government?

    Democracy involves allowing people to say disagreeable things, including disagreeable things that could have serious consequences if they reached their ultimate culmination.

    As the Jerusalem Post says in its editorial opposing the Boycott Bill (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=228885): "Attempts to legitimize Jewish presence in (the West Bank and East Jerusalem) through the stifling of criticism may just achieve the opposite, by providing BDS proponents with a truly worthy cause to champion – their own right to freedom of expression."

    So you are supporting a law that may achieve precisely the opposite of what you want it to achieve! It is a daft, inefficient law - just like the UK Government's broadcasting ban on Northern Ireland terrorists was daft and inefficient.

    You do your cause no favours by accusing me (and by implication Tzipi Livni, the JC and the Jerusalem Post!) of being "scared" and of "falling in line with those who seek Israel's destruction".

    Do you really believe that Peace Now (which is being sued under this new law) is the same as Hamas and Hezbollah?

    What you say about me somehow being happy about "Israel going under" is completely sick - it's equivalent to those people who would falsely accuse you, Richard, of seeking the destruction of the Palestinian people.

    I am a British Jew with close relatives living in Israel, so if Israel "went under" the consequences for me personally would be tragic and deeply serious.

    When you campaigned as a Conservative you were campaigning against the policies of Britain's Labour Government, but that didn't mean that you did not love your country as a patriotic British citizen - you merely disagreed with the policies of your country's government.

    It is perfectly possible to be a committed friend of Israel (including publicly supporting Operation Cast Lead, as I did), while also disagreeing with some (not all, but some) policies of its current government.

    After all, many people on the Right disagreed with the Rabin when he signed the Oslo Accords - that meant that they were disagreeing with Israeli government policy. Did it make them anti-Israel?

    More broadly, I am disappointed, as I say, that you feel the need to make about it about me - it's not about me, it's about the issues. Play the ball, not the man. Not because I can't take it, but as a general principle of how to conduct a proper debate.

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  9. Also, Richard, you write that I am: "encouraging similar economic attacks from the inside all in the name of "democracy"."

    I am not 'encouraging' boycotts; I am merely defending Israeli citizens' right to free speech.

    I defend BNP voters' right to vote BNP, but that does not mean that I am 'encouraging' people to vote BNP.

    Opposing a ban on someone doing something is not the same as encouraging people to do the thing that other people are seeking to ban.

    I would oppose a ban on the smoking of cigarettes; that doesn't mean that I am 'encouraging' the smoking of cigarettes.

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  10. I am not making this an issue about you. I was just trying to see how you would react if it was "your" own business that was targeted because someone didn't like your views and consequently you went bankrupt. I wasn't trying to "play the man" at all.

    Plus, if you have a look I never said you would be happy about Israel going under!!!

    I was merely suggesting to you that being seen as a democrat might to be of so much importance to you that Israel could suffer as a consequence.

    I just don't think you are putting yourself into the shoes of Israelis who have businesses and who are being targeted daily on all sides. I think you would change your mind if you were an Israeli citizen who had a business. Likewise the JC and the Jerusalem Post.

    If puting food on the table for yourself and your family were at stake I think your view would be totally different.

    If that all sounds like "playing the man", then it isn't intended to be.

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  11. Thank you, Richard.

    I understand where you are coming from. Yes, if I was an Israeli living in a West Bank settlement and someone wanted to boycott my business, with an impact on my ability to feed my family - then yes, I would be very upset. I see what you mean.

    Similarly, if I was a French vintner, I'd have been upset a few years ago when some British people said that they were going to stop buying French wine because they opposed French nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific; I'd have been seriously worried if I sold less wine and so could not feed my family.

    But that surely would not give me the right to prevent people from saying "Don't buy French wine"?

    It feels to me that the kind of Israelis who want people to boycott settlement goods are the kind of Far Left people that I find intensely annoying in Britain. They are perhaps rather similar to some of the less agreeable people that would attend Stop the War Coalition rallies in London.

    I don't like such people politically; nothing gives me greater pleasure than when they are hammered at the ballot box, as these various types of Trot very often are.

    But, through gritted teeth, I accept their right, as Israeli citizens in Israel, to call for a boycott of settlement goods, if they believe that such a settlement is in their country's interests.

    I myself (with my modest spending as an individual in London!) have no policy or practice of boycotting settlement goods and I often buy Israeli goods at my local supermarket without caring where they come from.

    I find some leaders of the settler movement to be politically obnoxious and I think that those leaders' views and policies are very bad news for the State of Israel.

    If I was buying a bottle of Israeli wine today, and one was obviously from the West Bank and another obviously wasn't, then, to be honest, I'd probably buy the latter, in preference to the former.

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  12. Oops, when I wrote: "But, through gritted teeth, I accept their right, as Israeli citizens in Israel, to call for a boycott of settlement goods, if they believe that such a settlement is in their country's interests", I meant

    "But, through gritted teeth, I accept their right, as Israeli citizens in Israel, to call for a boycott of settlement goods, if they believe that such a boycott is in their country's interests."

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  13. I am not sure that the rules that apply to Israel necessarily apply to this country or France. As i pointed out in my previous posts Israel is under attack on all fronts. The object of said attacks are to destroy Israel, in the main, not to change its policy. And if the objective succeeds it is goodbye Israel.

    Also, who said the boycotters are just taking aim at settlement goods? Individual companies inside Israel will probably be targeted, like Ahava is in the UK.

    At the end of the day the law was voted in for a reason. If one doesn't live there and doesn't have a business there maybe it is hard to sympathise but it does seem to be a case of "there but for the grace of God go i".

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  14. Thanks, Richard. I suggest that we must agree to disagree. I just think that people who live in Israel should be allowed to call for boycotts if they want to, so I think that the law is a mistake.

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