Following a stormy discussion, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday approved the "Boycott Law" for its second and third readings. The proposed law would level sanctions and fines on anyone calling for a boycott of Israeli-made products.
According to the bill, proposed by a group of MKs headed by coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) and Constitution Committee chairman David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu), any initiative for an economic, academic or cultural boycott of Israel, an Israeli organization or an organization based in Judea and Samaria would be defined as civil offense, and the boycotted organization would be allowed to sue the boycotters or those encouraging them for compensation, without regard to the actual rate of direct damage caused by the boycott itself.
Additionally, the law would allow the Finance Minister to exclude organizations that participate in such boycotts from participation in government tenders. The Finance Ministry would also have the power to sanction such organizations, and could cancel any state funding, loan guarantees or benefits granted by the Encouragement of Capital Investments Law or Encouragement of Industrial Research and Development Law, as well as income tax benefits.
"It is inconceivable that Israel will allow anyone to hurt its standing or its citizens," said MK Elkin.
MK Rotem added that "it must be clear to everyone that when someone tries to hurt Israel or its citizens, he will be exposed to financial lawsuits."
The bill also inspired fierce opposition. MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) called it "a bizarre, unconstitutional and unreasonable law that will be put to the test in the High Court of Justice."
MKs Zahava Gal-On and Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said the law is "insane, levels criminal and civil sanctions on legitimate political activities, and its goal is to silence leftist organizations in Israel."
MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) added that the bill is "anti-democratic and continues the dangerous process of silencing [critics of the government]."
Meanwhile, the committee approved an amendment to the law against money laundering which would include profits made through commerce with enemy countries as part of the law. If approved, companies that trade with enemy countries would be prosecuted for any profits made from the deal, in addition to the existing criminal offense.
Shuki Friedman, chairman of the Committee to Promote Sanctions on Iran in the Prime Minister's Office, said “the change is a continuation of Sunday’s government decision to expand economic sanctions against Iran.”