Israeli Knesset Legal Adviser Says anti-BDS Bill Violates Lawmakers' Rights

Bill would bar Knesset members from traveling abroad at invitation of pro-boycott groups

The Knesset plenum, 2017.
Emil Salman

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon has strongly objected to a proposal forbidding MKs to travel abroad at the invitation of groups that call for boycotting Israel or the settlements, or groups seeking to prosecute soldiers or defense officials for their actions.

According to Yinon, the proposal by Knesset House Committee chairman Yoav Kish (Likud) would unduly undermine MKs’ political activity. Knesset members, he said, are meant to enjoy the greatest possible freedom of action and expression, “even when their actions deviate from the consensus.”

Yinon conveyed his opinion to MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), a member of the Knesset Ethics Committee, in advance of a debate scheduled to take place Wednesday on the move. Under the proposal, the Knesset’s rules would be changed so that the ethics committee would have to examine the credentials of an inviting organization before it allows MKs to travel at the group’s expense.

“The proposal has an impact on the MKs’ freedom of political activity, which is derived from the basic right of freedom of political expression. This means any restriction requires extreme caution, and examining that on balance there isn’t excessive harm done to this right, which is a cornerstone of MKs’ activity,” wrote Yinon.

“In addition to undermining freedom of political expression and the artificial distinction that would be made between an MK’s activity in Israel and his activity abroad, the suggested limitations also undermine the purpose of the law that grants MKs immunity. The proposal imposes harsher restrictions on MKs than on ordinary citizens, while the immunity law is meant to assure MKs broader freedom of political activities than that of an ordinary citizen, and to prevent MKs of the majority from intervening in the ability of MKs who represent extreme positions to act politically as they see fit so long as there is no violation of the law.”