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Israeli activists to protest Boycott Law in Supreme Court

Israel’s Supreme Court is to arbitrate whether the country’s new law, which bans boycotting Jewish West Bank settlements, violates free speech, Israeli rights groups say. They pledge to file their complaint within the coming week.

­The new law makes it a crime for citizens to boycott Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. It allows any kind of settler or settlement-based business to sue for damages against Israelis calling for a boycott, resulting in fines. If the person sued is not Israeli – he or she could be banned from entering the country.

The vote was passed in the Knesset late on Monday by 47 votes in favor and 38 votes against by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line coalition.

The legal advisor for the Knesset Eyal Yinon is himself against this bill, calling it “borderline illegal”. This sentiment is echoed by human rights organizations and several parliamentarians who labeled the bill undemocratic and a violation of human rights.

The new law is only a current representation of a rising wave of anti-democratic legislation that is gradually drowning the foundation of Israeli democracy, believes Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Hagai El-Ad said that boycott is a world-recognized, non-violent form of expressing protest and making it illegal is nonsense. Human rights violations in Israel have been growing over the past years, he added.

What is gradually seen here is a process in which norms from beyond the green line, from the occupied territories, suffer constant rights violations, which are gradually trickling into Israel. In the occupied territories it is a mockery to talk about the freedom of speech. Now we see the erosion of freedom of speech for Israeli citizens,” El-Ad said, remarking that up to that point Israel has been known for its firm democratic principles.

The new law was introduced just hours before the Middle East Quartet convened in Washington in a new attempt to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.