The Israeli Knesset is taking an ill-advised path in trying to tamp down domestic dissent:
The Israeli Parliament on Monday passed contentious legislation that effectively bans any public call for a boycott against the state of Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.
Critics and civil rights groups denounced the new law as antidemocratic and a flagrant assault on the freedom of expression and protest. The law’s defenders said it was a necessary tool in Israel’s fight against what they called its global delegitimization.
Offenders could face lawsuits and monetary penalties. Companies or organizations supporting a boycott could be disqualified from participating in bids for government work. Nonprofit organizations issuing boycott calls risk losing tax benefits.
Laws like this will accelerate, rather than halt the attempts by Israel's international critics to delegitimize the country. Matt Duss notes that such a law would have made it so that Martin Luther King Jr. could be forced to pay monetary penalties based on his involvement in the 1950s Montgomery Bus Boycott, but the boycott was illegal, and was prosecuted and fined under a 1921 law "prohibiting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business."
We all know how that worked out. Rather than smothering the boycott, the state of Alabama's efforts merely enhanced the stature of the activists themselves, drawing national attention to the efforts of anti-segregation protesters and contrasting them unfavorably with the actions of the state. If history is any guide, the efforts of Israel's right wing to prevent "global delegitimization" will result in the exact opposite.
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