Israel: Publishing in a country that has outlawed free speech

In its relentless slide towards outright fascism, Israel has imposed an effective prohibition on political debate around the issue of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). At +972, Dimi Reider describes the effect of the new law by answering the question, What is +972‘s stance on BDS?

The simple answer is that we don’t have one. The website is a collective of authors, each of whom have their own opinions about BDS. Some oppose it, some support it; some, like yours truly, support the D but are not particularly fond of the BS. But unfortunately, our ability to freely discuss this key aspect of the fight against the occupation has been severely and deliberately crippled by recent legislation. We may still carry opinions on BDS; but outright calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions hold far too great a risk for our site – a risk we are not in the financial position to take. Since we are legally responsible for all content appearing on the website, this obligates us to erase outright calls, and only outright calls for BDS from the comment thread as well.

Here is how it works: In May 2011, the Knesset passed the notorious “Boycott Law”. The Boycott Law does not make it a criminal offence or even misdemeanour to call for boycott. Neither any of us, nor any of readers will go to jail for making such a call. But the law does allow anyone who feels they have been materially impaired by that hypothetical call to sue us for damages – without actually proving any damages were suffered. In other words, if a reader was to publish a comment explicitly calling for BDS, tomorrow the website could be slammed with a massive lawsuit by some other reader or a right-wing “lawfare” organisaton. Even if we won the case in the long run, the legal fees would have sunk us very quickly – our budget is minimal, not to say minute, and we have no assets we can liquify and throw into the fight.

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One thought on “Israel: Publishing in a country that has outlawed free speech

  1. DE Teodoru

    The backers of this law tried that in the US. In the end the issue is whether our generation of old farts have the same guts we had when we were part of the world student revolution for free speech. It is tough, but if we are not silent, the defenders of truth in Israel will know that the shysters trying to oppress them will face us kinking the umbilical cord through which Israel survives. Let us recall that the same Speaker Kantor that blocked FIMA when the Northeast desperately needed it after the hurricane and now is blocking the continuation of the tax break of the Middle Class, slid silently through Congress FOUR BILLION DOLLARS for one year to Israel. Should the Likud Shysters silence Israelis this way, we can raise much noice so they feel the backlash. After all, we DO NOT support Ziofascists!

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