Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi on Sunday urged Israeli citizens to actively refrain from purchasing merchandise produced by Jews residing in West Bank settlements, in order to pressure the government into changing its policies across the Green Line.
Speaking during a debate on the Knesset Channel, Israel’s C-SPAN, Tibi said he supported dealing financial harm to the settlements, whose very existence, he claimed, blatantly violated accepted international laws.
“From this studio, I call on the public to boycott the settlements, to boycott the produce of the settlements,” the lawmaker said. “We are talking about a war crime, so boycott the settlements.”
Last week, the High Court of Justice largely rejected an appeal against a law that limits Israelis’ ability to call for boycotts of West Bank settlements. The 2011 law allows for civil damages lawsuits to be brought against those advocating boycotts that target Israelis because of their connection to Israel — and explicitly includes boycotts against Israelis living in “territory held by Israel” as within the definition of potential victims who can sue for damages.
The effect: The law allows West Bank settlers, among other groups, to seek financial damages if they believe they were harmed by calls to boycott them.
As an MK, Tibi enjoys parliamentary immunity from such lawsuits.
Israeli rights groups petitioning against the law said the legislation infringes on the right to free speech by exacting an unreasonable cost for advocacy against West Bank settlements, while defenders of the law say it prohibits discriminatory boycotting of Israelis and of minorities within Israel, such as settlers.
The law has not been tested in court, as no damage suits have yet been filed, but the High Court’s constitutional go-ahead clears the way for such challenges.
The ruling came against a backdrop of an international boycott campaign against Israel that cites Israel’s West Bank settlements, control of the Golan Heights and other issues as reason to boycott the country and its citizens. The Palestinians and most of the international community say settlements are illegal because they are built on war-won land that the Palestinians want for their future state.
More than 550,000 Israeli citizens live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — contiguous areas captured in the 1967 Six Day War — among roughly 2.5 million Palestinians. Most of them live in neighborhoods in northern or southern Jerusalem, or in a handful of large cities close to the Green Line, but some live in far-flung settlements nestled between Palestinian population centers.
For the most part, Israeli civilians across the Green Line enjoy the same legal rights as the residents of the rest of the country, while Palestinians living in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens and therefore are not granted similar rights. Some Israelis see a major security risk in giving up the West Bank, which commands the highlands over central Israel.