ZOA President Morton A. Klein has released the following statement:
ZOA has been widely quoted on our position on Israels internal anti-boycott law, which strongly implied ZOA is completely against it.
ZOAs position is much more nuanced than that, especially after fully examining this new Law today as we promised to do.
Israel is under existential threat from many countries and peoples around the world. Israel is enduring an organized worldwide campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) the Jewish state. Israel is also watching with deep concern as its neighbors are undergoing dramatic change which could bring even more radical Islamist, anti-Israel, anti-US, and anti-West governments into power. Commentarys Jonathan Tobin wrote, those seeking to implement boycotts are not merely expressing criticism of government policies but are, in fact, waging economic warfare on Israel. Moreover, such boycotts are not merely symbolic efforts to chide the Jewish state on a particular issue but part of an insidious international conspiracy to strangle a nation. If the majority of Israelis, and it would appear a majority of the country as well as the Knesset backs this measure, it is because they rightly see advocacy of boycotts as racist attacks on their very existence Israels foes are not, as some in this country falsely assert, merely objecting to its possession of the West Bank and the city of Jerusalem but its very existence.
We, in America, thankfully do not have to worry about and deal with these kinds of threats. Therefore, the ZOA believes that Jewish organizations should be very careful about telling Israel how to protect its security and economic interests, especially when enemies of Israel and outright anti-Semites are using the words of Jewish organizations that criticize Israel to encourage and promote their own external boycott, delegitimization and sanction efforts against Israel.
When other countries have felt these types of substantial threats they have frequently gone so far as to have invoked martial law, suspending certain rights that citizens normally enjoyed.
As the articles quoting ZOA have stated, we were still examining this Law, which allows “citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control.” ZOA now sees that the enacted Law has eliminated any criminal penalties for boycotting Israeli products or institutions, and allows only civil remedies such as fines and eliminating government funding to violators; the ZOA now is more sympathetic with the Israeli Knessets actions even though the Law is not perfect, e.g. the wording of the Law is vague, therefore could be interpreted to apply to any boycott of an Israeli citizen or anybody for almost any violation and as such could cause a chilling effect on all boycotts.
The New Israel Fund has falsely claimed that the bill criminalizes freedom of speech, and Gush Shalom, falsely states the law is a death sentence for the right to freedom of expression. The anti-boycott law applies to any area under Israeli control. The global BDS movement targets all of Israel, even within the Green Line, and explicitly rejects the existence of Israel within any borders.
Eli Hertz, a member of ZOAs national Board, very powerfully reminded us that even the United States protects Israel from boycotts, and in a stronger way than the Israeli law does. Hertz wrote,
The Anti-boycott laws under the U.S. Export Administration Act of 1979 [as amended in August 1999] were written specifically to protect Israel from the Arab League and other Moslem countries.
On Monday, July 11, 2011 the Knesset [the Israeli Parliament] passed an Anti-boycott law against those who promote and call to boycott Israel
A look at the U.S. Anti-boycott laws objectives, should be helpful in defending the Israeli law.
“The [U.S.] Anti-boycott laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott. Compliance with such requests may be prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and may be reportable to the Bureau.”
The U.S. Laws Prohibits among others:
“Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
“Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality.
“Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
“Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person.”
Acting against the U.S. laws is considered a criminal behavior and carry with it penalties of up to $1 million and 20 years imprisonment per violation.
We should also remember that even a liberal Jewish group such as the American Jewish Congress was one of the major opponents of boycotting anything in Israel. Its publication Boycott Watch was its respected monitor of anti-Israel boycott issues.
The ZOA is firmly opposed to boycotting Israeli goods, services, cultural and sporting events anywhere in the world. A boycott against any part of the Jewish state of Israel, a human rights loving democracy, which has given all of Gaza and one-half of Judea & Samaria to the Palestinian Arabs and offered far more only to be rejected by the Palestinians who refuse to negotiate, and whose Palestinian Authority has named hundreds of schools, streets, and sports teams after Jew-killing terrorists, refuse to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorist groups and those who align themselves with Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of every Jew, including the Jewish boycotters, is wrong, immoral, despicable, and frequently anti-Semitic.