Knesset advances bill to crack down on BDS activists within Israel

“They don’t want peace, they simply want to delegitimize the State of Israel and destroy it as the Jewish homeland,” said one of the bill’s sponsors.

By: Jack Ben-David, World Israel News

Israeli lawmakers moved ahead in the Knesset Tuesday with legislation designed to target Israeli activists and companies that “systematically” call for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel, making them liable to pay hefty penalties of up to NIS 500,000.

Spearheaded by Likud MK Yoav Kisch, the bill is the latest legal tool being sharpened by the Israeli government to puncture the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), which has been inflated in recent years by the endorsement of prominent artists and musicians such as Roger Waters.

The new bill, which passed its initial reading by a vote of 60-40, is also the successor of a similar bill ratified in 2011 which enabled companies to demand compensation from activists calling for the boycott of Israeli firms located in various parts of Israel, including Judea and Samaria.

The law, however, was partially defanged by the High Court of Justice two years ago after it scrapped a clause allowing for the imposition of unlimited fines on the pro-BDS activists or companies.

Seeking to remedy the shortfall, the new bill sets a limit of up to NIS 100,000 fines for such companies without proof of damages. Furthermore, activists and organizations that run afoul of the latest bill, if passed, will face a maximum compensation order of as much as NIS 500,000 where damages can be proved.

Among the bill’s chief proponents is Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, whose subsidiary Ministry of Strategic Affairs was established to tackle the BDS movement.

According to Erdan, the bill is intended to “send a clear message” that people seeking to economically squeeze Israel could fall prey to their own tactics.

“They don’t want peace, they simply want to delegitimize the State of Israel and destroy it as the Jewish homeland,” Erdan said.

Kisch claimed before the Knesset plenary session that the bill was necessitated by the fact that the court’s 2015 removal of the clause pertaining to unlimited compensation essentially meant that the old law was “ineffective.”

The most recent bill, he said, before listing a few of the worst offenders who could find themselves on the receiving end of the law, would be “sticking a finger in the eye” of the Israeli activists and organizations targeting Israel’s economy.

In recent years, the Israeli government has taken a series of measures designed to mitigate its impact, utilizing the modern technology such as applications, lobbying international lawmakers and enlisting pro-Israel communities throughout the world.