Decision: Israel’s High Court of Justice Rules State May Prosecute Anti-Israel Boycotters

High Court justices rule that protecting Israel’s well-being surpasses the right to boycott & does not contravene free speech
The law, passed some 4 years ago, now makes the call for a boycott of Israel a civil offense.

The Knesset did not trample constitutional rights when it legislated a bill aimed at punishing those who call for a boycott of Israel, the High Court of Justice said on Wednesday.

The High Court of Justice largely upheld the anti-boycott law on Wednesday – Photo: Lior Mizrahi

An extended panel of nine justices said the law, known as the Law for the Prevention of Boycotts Targeting Israel, passed constitutional muster, noting that the state has the right to defend itself against those who want to forcefully undermine its very foundation. The court said that it was possible to reconcile freedom of speech with certain restrictions on boycotts, so long as these were designed to protect the state from a real threat to its wellbeing, noting that the punitive measures mentioned in law were within reason.

The 2011 law, sponsored by then-Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud), says that the government may seek damages from anyone who actively promotes an economic, cultural or academic boycott of Israel or any other entity because of its affiliation with Israel. This applies to boycott campaigns that target produce from Judea and Samaria. The law allows the finance minister to prevent those who promote such boycott or take part in it from submitting bids for various projects and to deny them state funding and other benefits.

During the court hearings, the state said the bill would help safeguard Israel’s stature on the world stage and protect its foreign relations.

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel had petitioned the High Court of Justice shortly after the law’s enactment, saying it imposed a “price tag” on legitimate political views and undermines the public discourse on the most controversial issues in Israeli society.

“The High Court refused to do the obvious thing — protect free speech,” the organizations said following Wednesday’s decision. Despite siding overwhelmingly with the state, the court did strike down one provision which allowed the court to award damages on boycott-related offenses even without proof of wrongful conduct. The judges said this was an excessive measure.


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