Israel to Pass Anti-Boycott Regulations Following Ben & Jerry’s, Amnesty Controversies
Israel’s justice minister approved regulations late on Saturday to sanction companies such as Ben & Jerry’s and its parent Unilever over their decision to boycott Israel by preventing them from taking part in state tenders and limiting other benefits.
“The State of Israel must fight boycott attempts against its nation, which are part of a broader strategy to delegitimize the Jewish state,” Gideon Sa’ar said.
The move comes after Avi Zinger, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israel, urged the Israeli government last week to apply a 2011 anti-boycott law against Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, over the ice cream maker’s July decision to cease selling its products in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Zinger lamented that while many US states have in recent months applied their laws against the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, and as a result have divested or ceased to invest funds in Unilever, in Israel “not a single step has been taken to tackle a corporate giant that has decided to initiate a boycott of the State of Israel.”
“Unilever, which is acting in breach of the Israeli boycott law, continues to provide the State of Israel, the IDF and government bodies with products worth millions of shekels every year,” Zinger wrote in his letter, which was signed by 169 Ben & Jerry’s employees from the Israel franchise factory.
“The State of Israel is encouraging future boycotts by other companies through its prolonged silence and inaction and is providing BDS with a victory,” he added.
The regulations, which still await approval by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, will apply to companies that have called for boycotting Israel, or anyone participating in such a boycott. They were drafted by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman before being presented to Sa’ar.
“I take any attempt to harm the State of Israel by imposing a boycott seriously,” Lieberman said.
Following the approval and passage of the legislation, Lieberman seeks to examine recent actions by Amnesty International and use the mechanisms proposed in the regulations in order to impose on the organization the restrictions set forth in the law.
Amnesty UK last week published a controversial report titled, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity,” charging that the state “considers and treats Palestinians as an inferior non-Jewish racial group.” The report drew strong criticism from Israeli politicians, as well as US lawmakers, the German government, and US Jewish community leaders, among others.
NGO Monitor remarked that Amnesty’s intention is to “use sanctions, boycotts, arrests of Israeli officials to attack Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”