This freedom of speech thing is getting complicated. I think it’s time I posted a list of the things I’m not allowed to say above my desk. I must remember not to mention the Naqba. I must remember not to suggest boycotting settlements – and perhaps just to make sure I don’t get into trouble, I’d better attach a youtube version of me singing the national anthem at the end of every blog. Perhaps I’d better go back and edit the blogs I’ve already written – I have a horrible feeling I may have mentioned the Naqba already, or even, God forbid, suggested a mild disinclination towards continuing to pay for the settlements. Luckily, I can still propose killing Palestinian babies or not selling apartments to Arabs, so there’s still plenty left for me to say. Oy, maybe I’d better avoid using the word ‘left’ – after all, cries of ‘Death to Left-Wingers’ are still perfectly acceptable.
In case you’re wondering at the cause of today’s sarcasm, last night the Knesset passed a bill making calls to boycott Israel or the settlements actionable in civil suits – with the plaintiff not even needing to prove actual damages. Therefore, were I to suggest boycotting products made on West Bank settlements, I could be sued for damages and the court could award damages against me of whatever sum it deemed fit, regardless of actual damage caused. The majority of our Knesset members do not seem to understand that democracy is not just a matter of majority rule.
So what should our reaction to such legislation be? Some seem to propose that the principal of the rule of law is sacrosanct, and therefore it is our duty to obey the law, although we have every democratic right to try to get the law changed. Various organizations will decide to take the step of challenging the legitimacy of the law in the court system. Their case may be strengthened by the position of the Legal Advisor to the Knesset, who yesterday published his opinion against the law (one suspects that by the time the Supreme Court comes to hear the case, he may no longer be in that particular job).
Another response might be to join Peace Now’s campaign to boycott products produced by the settlements. The discussion on Peace Now’s facebook page makes for interesting reading. I particularly liked the suggestion that the Government publish a list of products that we cannot boycott – writing as someone who is having difficulty getting hold of a list of products I may or may not choose to buy. Once again, we’re faced by questions as to when it is legitimate to break the law as a form of protest. Simon suggested in a comment on a previous blog, that breaking the law in a non-violent way, and being prepared to pay the price, is a legitimate form of protest. In this specific case, breaking the law is not even a criminal offence. Therefore, it seems to me that it would be perfectly legitimate to decide not to obey this new anti-democratic law, as long as one is prepared to pay the potentially expensive price that may or may not be exacted.
My supermarket shopping is taking longer and longer with each week that goes by. It started with careful checking of the weightwatcher points contained in any product I was considering. Then I felt compelled to try to avoid products with the heksher of the Eda Haredit – as they are the antithesis of much of what I believe in, and buying products with their stamp helps fund their despicable activities. Both those acts of selection are still legal. Now, however, I will get my act together and do my best to avoid products created on settlements. The profits from those products also go towards all sorts of activities I detest. This act is, in and of itself, not yet actionable – just as long as I don’t call on anyone else to join me. Last time I checked, there was not yet a law against taking your conscience with you when you go shopping.