At Open Democracy, Miri Weingarten writes:
An interesting fact about the Israeli boycott ban has been the fact that the storm of opposition to the bill only came into being at the very last minute or even after the passing of the bill into law on July 11.
Indicative of this phenomenon is the heartfelt elegy to democracy written by Israel’s Knesset speaker MK Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin against the law in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, after it was passed. One of the Likud party’s old guard, a staunch disciple of revisionist Zionist Zeev Zabotinsky, Rivlin cannot be suspected of holding dovish views. But he has expressed shock at the ignorance of the younger members of the Knesset of any concept of democracy or even of the basic principles professed, if not respected, by Zabotinsky – who maintained that freedom of expression was sacrosanct.
Brave words. But at the vote itself Rivlin abstained, as did other self-styled supporters of human rights and individual liberties within the Likud.
It was not only the right wing that could not bring itself to defend freedom of expression in the face of the boycott campaign. In fact, all those members of Israel’s opposition in the Knesset and even outside it who now loudly protest against the law had gone to no great lengths to strike the bill off the Knesset’s table before it was too late. Theirs was not so much an outright refusal to do so, as a decision to choose other, less divisive issues as priorities.
In Europe, too, a marked reticence among diplomats, lawmakers and bureaucrats was recorded whenever this particular bill was mentioned. When other anti-democratic bills were proposed, such as a bill to limit EU or other foreign funding to Israeli human rights groups, the EU spoke out quite clearly; and indeed the version of the funding bill that ultimately passed into law was far less restrictive than the original text. There is no doubt that public attention and censure during the discussion of a bill can play a crucial role in the Knesset’s perceptions of how damaging the law can become in terms of public support as well as international support. In such a situation, silence is acquiescence.