Ministers Back Bill Awarding Israelis Compensation From Boycotters Without Proof of Damage

High Court of Justice can award up to $143,000 if it determines that the boycott call is an injustice committed in an organized, systematic fashion

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Member of the Jewish Representative Council stage a protest against the BDS movement in Cape Town, South Africa, February 13, 2015.
Member of the Jewish Representative Council stage a protest against the BDS movement in Cape Town, South Africa, February 13, 2015. Credit: Ashraf Hendricks / Anadolu Agenc
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to support an amendment to the so-called anti-boycott law that would allow Israelis to sue and receive compensation of up to 500,000 shekels (around $143,000) from anyone who calls for a boycott of the settlements or of Israel, without the need to prove that any damage resulted.

The new clause is meant to replace a clause that was struck down by the High Court of Justice in the original law, passed in 2011. An expanded panel of nine justices ruled in 2015 that a law cannot allow suing for compensation that isn’t tied to actual damages without setting a limit for said compensation.

The new version of the clause addresses three scenarios. A person who makes a one-time call for a boycott cannot be sued. In other cases involving repeated calls for an economic, cultural or academic boycott, compensation will be limited to 100,000 shekels. In cases in which the court determines that the boycott call is an injustice committed in an organized, systematic fashion, it can award compensation of up to 500,000 shekels.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who sponsored the bill along with fellow Likud MK Yoav Kish, said Sunday: “The main boycott activists, who devote all their time to do serious harm to Israeli citizens and the Israeli economy, have to know that they may pay a heavy financial price for the damage they are doing to the state.”

Kish said, “It’s about time the state had the ability to undermine the financial power behind the BDS movement, its affiliates, and anyone who calls to boycott Israel and its citizens,” referring to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. “We won’t stop until this phenomenon is totally eliminated,” Kish added.

The Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through a Boycott (2011) aimed to permit damage suits against those who called to boycott settlement products or to avoid economic ties with Israel in general. The law authorizes the finance minister to refuse financial benefits such as grants, tax breaks or the right to bid for state business to anyone who calls for a boycott or commits to support one.

While the High Court struck down the clause that permits compensation without proving damages, it rejected a series of petitions calling for the entire Boycott Law to be annulled. Justice Hanan Melcer, who wrote the majority opinion, determined that the bill advanced a worthy cause. He said that while the law indeed restricts freedom of expression, the limitation was reasonable. According to Melcer, the only part of the law that was unreasonable was that it allowed the payment of unlimited compensation without proving damage, something that would have “a chilling effect on political expression and vibrant social debate.”

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