Knesset Enacts Law That Would Force Labeling of Israeli Businesses That Refuse Service to Settlements

New regulations would force business owners to display a sign on their premises if they won't provide shipping or other services to settlements across the 1967 border.

Palestinian men work at a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.
Ariel Schalit/AP

The Knesset passed a law that would allow the state to require businesses that refuse to provide services to settlements to display that policy on the premises.

Such businesses could be forced to pay prospective customers up to 10,000 shekels ($2,660) in compensation if they fail to post their policy properly.

The new provisions are an amendment to the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law, adding “place of residence” to the classes that are protected by the law. 

While the amendment will also apply to communities within Israel, including Arab communities and communities in outlying areas, it also specifically mentions aiding residents of settlements. An article in the amendment specifies that its purpose is to help settlers address the refusal by many business owners to cross the border out of security concerns or ideology.

Lawmaker Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), who sponsored the law, hinted that the move would allow settlers to draw up a “blacklist” that will permit a boycott of businesses that treat settlements differently to Israel proper. 

“It cannot be that residents of Judea and Samaria, for example, will purchase a product but never receive services or shipping for it because they live beyond the Green Line, or they will be required to pay a ‘special charge,’” said Moalem-Refaeli, referring to the West Bank and Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

“Businesses that choose to discriminate against consumers who live in Judea and Samaria, in outlying areas or in Arab communities will be obligated to inform their customers in advance. If they fear being put on customers’ blacklists, they should them treat all equally.”

"The aim here is to advance annexation legislation and to relate to the settlements as part of the Israeli state -- which of course is contrary to international law -- and to normalize the settlements," Joint List Knesset member Yousef Jabareen said during the debate. "They have told me that this law is supposed to also assist Arab communities, but in the current legal situation, preventing [the provision] of services in Umm al-Fahm or other [Israeli] Arab communities is prohibited in any event."

In his own criticism of the bill, Jabareen's Joint List colleague Ahmad Tibi said: "The settlements are a violation of international law, and it is therefore legitimate to relate to them as something that is not legitimate."

Joint List Knesset member Masud Ganaim said: "On its face, this bill seeks to promote justice and equality, but it's impossible to do so while at the same time giving a stamp of approval to an occupied area and to lend a hand to creeping annexation. The settlements are an enterprise that is foiling every peace process and symbolizing the theft of the Palestinians' land. We are against the bill, which seeks to justify them and provide them legitimization."

On the other end of the political spectrum, Shuli Moalem- Refaeli of Habayit Hayehudi took the Joint List Knesset members to task for their remarks. "Any person with healthy common sense understands that [the bill] will benefit both someone who lives in Beit El and in the same breath someone who lives in Taibeh." Beit El is a West Bank Jewish settlement and Taibeh is an Israeli Arab town. "I call on the Arab public and warmly recommend that in the next election, they vote for Habayit Hayehudi."

Zionist Union Knesset member Eitan Cabel, who presented to bill to the Knesset, said despite his position in support of returning the territories, he supports the bill. "My opinion when it comes to everything related to negotiations on Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is well-known and clear. Nevertheless, I again say that as long as the State of Israel has sent the people [the settlers] and doesn’t have the courage to decide otherwise, these people can't be thrown out. A business owner who is not prepared to go to [the Jewish settlement of] Elkana, should say so in advance." 

Cabel added: "If the time comes that we come to a peace agreement with our neighbors, it is not this law that would stand in the way. It's not over it that there will or will not be an agreement with our neighbors. They are human beings. Not everything should be turned into left-right politics."

According to the regulations, a business will need to place a sign “close to every cash register, in a prominent place, which sets out its shipping or service policy.”

The sign must be at least A4 size (210 x 297 millimeters, or 11.7 x 8.3 inches). The regulations also include specific instructions relating to the lettering: The words “Shipping Service Policy” or “Customer Service Policy” must appear at the top of the sign, underlined and no less than 65 pixels in size. The size of text within the actual announcement must be no less than 24 pixels.

According to the law, "Whoever offers a product or service to the public or operates a public place, will not discriminate in providing the product or public service at the place of the business, in allowing entrance to a public place or providing service in a public place due to the place of residence."

In Clause 2 (A), it is written specifically that the law will apply to providing for “the area defined by emergency regulations (Judea and Samaria.)"

The bill’s explanatory notes add: “The business will be prohibited from doing anything, in practice or by omission, in writing or verbally or any other way, including after the connection [was made] that is liable to mislead the consumer regarding the place to which the property or service will be provided, including stopping the asset or service in the area of Judea and Samaria."