Criticizing Israel Could Soon Be Illegal

Those of us who follow these issues are likely already aware of the sustained “lawfare” campaign currently being conducted by pro-Israel special interests. That being said, I think a lot of people are out of the loop on the goings on, and I would like to highlight a particularly troublesome trend: Where criticizing the behavior of another nation state can land you in hot legal water, even in a country where criticizing your own government carries no legal consequences.

As Glenn Greenwald notes in this Intercept article,

THIS TREND TO outlaw activism against the decadeslong Israeli occupation — particularly though not only through boycotts against Israel — has permeated multiple Western nations and countless institutions within them. In October, we reported on the criminal convictions in France of 12 activists “for the ‘crime’ of advocating sanctions and a boycott against Israel as a means of ending the decadeslong military occupation of Palestine,” convictions upheld by France’s highest court. They were literally arrested and prosecuted for “wearing shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Long live Palestine, boycott Israel’” and because “they also handed out fliers that said that ‘buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.’”

As we noted, Pascal Markowicz, chief lawyer of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewish communities, published this celebratory decree (emphasis in original): “BDS is ILLEGAL in France.” Statements advocating a boycott or sanctions, he added, “are completely illegal. If [BDS activists] say their freedom of expression has been violated, now France’s highest legal instance ruled otherwise.” In Canada last year, officials threatened criminal prosecution against anyone supporting boycotts against Israel.

In the U.S., unbeknownst to many, there are similar legislative proscriptions on such activism, and a pending bill would strengthen the outlawing of BDS. As the Washington Post reported last June, “A wave of anti-BDS legislation is sweeping the U.S.” Numerous bills in Congress encourage or require state action to combat BDS.

So I can’t mince words when I say, “illegal,” because it already is depending on what borders happen to surround you at this moment. Here in the US, I don’t think it will withstand legal challenge, but that challenge has to happen first, and while I’m optimistic in some ways, I feel that the courts in the US are increasingly untrustworthy with free speech issues. I don’t like to be alarmist, but in a country where the laws are contemplated seriously without major objection, there is always a chance they will be upheld. This is a serious issue, especially from an international humanitarian perspective. If you think Israel is going to be exceptional in this regard, I’d argue that you have another thing coming. Other countries will clamor for this special treatment, and it’s going to be hard to rationalize this special status.

In a way, we’ve already had this debate with regards to The Interview and North Korea. This country seemed prepared to go to war over the rights of a few filmmakers to create a silly movie. But if you argue for a boycott of another nation over human rights abuses, suddenly you’re the enemy of the state? There’s something deeply wrong with that. I have to add: The people who are pursuing this course of action are undermining their own cause. People who have the moral high ground don’t usually get so desperate to silence their critics.


Also from the Greenwald article, this:

Notably, the students and administrators justifying the campus censorship of anti-Israel views invoke the very same “PC” rhetoric of “safe spaces” and “hate speech” denounced by ostensibly free-speech pundits.

I hate being right about these things, but I’ve always found this trend to be troubling and it’s stuff like this that I was expecting.


It seems to me a lot of the frankly non-sensical support of Israel in the US (to the point of condoning human rights abuses) stems from christian fundamentalists. Dominionists who truly believe that once Israel is “made whole” and the temple is rebuilt, the end of the world can start. They don’t care about climate change. They don’t care about human rights. They don’t even really care about the well being of Jews.

To them the Jews are a linchpin in catalyzing the rapture, and then Jesus’ 10,000 year kingdom. These are people who don’t care about making the world a better place through their own efforts. They want to destroy it. Because they believe their god wants the world destroyed.

And they have, to me, terrifying power in US lawmaking. They are running for president right now. And they have no one’s best interests at heart.

They’re really no different than the people in Daesh.


I’m not really one to raise a glass to the type of Christians you speak of here, not even in an “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” way, but comparison to daesh is if fact hyperbole.

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Oh, by the comparison, I meant that the christian dominionists want to take over the world, place it under a theocracy and kick off armageddon. Just like Daesh. Just because the christian dominionists aren’t killing as many people in the process doesn’t make what they’re trying to do much different.

I live with some of them. The comparison is apt.


An Eyal Press Op Ed last month also summarized the issue.

Should the U.S. government be compelled to legitimize disputed Israeli settlements by purchasing goods produced there?

Just before Christmas, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, sent the White House a box of holiday gifts with a pointed political message. Inside were items (body lotion, halvah, olive oil) produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. …

As documented in a new report by Human Rights Watch, Israel’s occupation has grown into a lucrative business, exploited by companies as part of a system that is unlawful and abusive.


Interesting take on this in slate:


From the article …

… I want to offer my own perspective on this flashpoint moment, because I believe that queer, anti-Zionist Jews like myself have a unique ability to empathize with both sides of this controversy without getting lost in the comfortable fantasy that Israel/Palestine is “too complicated” to take a strong stand. …


This fantasy is incredibly harmful. I hate hearing this from Americans, because our government is very influential when it comes to how events over there transpire. Being ignorant is a bizarre luxury given this outsize influence. I would say it ranks up there with not knowing who we’re currently bombing.


The crazy Evangelists have given Zionism such a leg-up.

‘Hey, can we have $20 billion to continue being insufferable arseholes?’

‘Yeah, sure, no probs’


They know that the Evangelicals are probably the most supportive, but it’s the wrong wagon to hitch your cause to. They aren’t a majority of Americans and they gave up all of their influence on one of the major political parties.

Of course, they are getting desperate, and how:

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