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From the field

8 March '11: Civil-society organizations oppose bill prohibiting political protest against the occupation

In advance of the vote held yesterday (8 March) in the Knesset’s Plenum, 53 Israeli human rights organizations and civil-society organizations sent a letter to the Speaker of the Knesset expressing their firm opposition to the private bill proposed by MK Ze’ev Elkin, referred to as the "Anti-Boycott Law". The signatory organizations engage in a wide variety of issues, among them human rights, workers' rights, welfare, feminism, and peace, and include the Adva Center, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B'Tselem, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Physicians for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Woman to Woman. 

 In their letter, the organizations state that they hold differing views of the use of boycotts; some believe boycotts are an effective tool, while others strongly object to boycotts. All of them agree, however, that boycotts are a civic, non-violent, and legitimate means to express opinion and promote social and political change.

 “The bill clearly seeks to restrict the activity of only certain political groups, solely because they challenge the current political consensus in Israel. Rather than conduct a democratic debate on issues on the public agenda in Israel, the bill silences political rivals and makes public debate impossible. This bill is dangerous. It tramples on fundamental rights, primarily the right to freedom of speech, the right to protest, and the right to organize.”

 The proposed bills is one of a chain of bills and anti-democratic initiatives submitted during this session of the Knesset that are liable to change the character of Israel’s regime.