Groups Step Up Campaigns Against Monday's anti-Israel Boycott Bill

The opposition and left-wing organizations increase pressure to stop bill due for readings in Knesset tomorrow; MKs to lobby Knesset speaker to postpone vote, activist groups to picket Justice Ministry.

The opposition and several left-wing organizations are expected to step up their campaigns against the anti-Israel boycott bill today. The bill, which seeks to penalise those starting anti-Israel boycotts, is due to receive its second and third readings in the Knesset tomorrow.

The opposition has filed enough reservations to allow it to filibuster for at least 15 hours at the assembly, while MKs are lobbying the Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin, to postpone the vote.

Protesters supporting Ariel boycott in 2010 - Nir Kafri
Nir Kafri

Peace Now and the Coalition of Women for Peace, meanwhile, will picket the Justice Ministry today, to protest what they call an immediate infringement of freedom of speech if the bill is voted into law.

The bill, sponsored by MK Zeev Elkin (Likud ), places a number of sanctions on companies and individuals publicly calling for boycott against Israel or a boycott of settlements. Elkin said yesterday he will push for the bill to be voted on as planned, while Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri said the Justice Ministry will defend the bill if it is challenged in the Supreme Court.

The final version of the bill would empower the court to set a sum of compensation to be paid by organizations or individuals calling for boycott, without proof of damages. The bill also adds a handful of new sanctions, such as stating that an organization committed to calling for a boycott on Israel will not be recognized as tax-exempt.

Meanwhile, the cabinet decided not to discuss two bills today which target the fund-raising abilities of leftists organizations, for fear of angering the Quartet. The Quartet is set to meet in Washington tomorrow, and is expected to endorse the May 19 Barack Obama speech and chart a course for a return to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Minister Benny Begin asked one of the bill's sponsors, MK Ofir Akunis (Likud ), to postpone the discussion, to which Akunis agreed. His bill would ban non-state-supported political organizations from raising foreign donations in excess of NIS 20,000.