Home Israel Passes Anti-Boycott Law: This Week in Online Tyranny

Israel Passes Anti-Boycott Law: This Week in Online Tyranny

Israel makes boycotts illegal. One of the time-tested, non-violent ways in which people have attempted to force grass-roots change is by boycotting the products or services of an entity whose actions they dislike. Now, Israel made such boycotts illegal.

Given how deeply social media is twined into contemporary political action, this makes certain types of online actions as illegal in Israel as they are in non-democratic countries.

Here’s how Roi Maor explains it on +972 magazine.

“Simply put, the law seeks to penalize those who call for boycotting Israel, the settlements, or anyone related to the occupation. If a person, for example, calls for a boycott of academic institutions that participate in the occupation, he could be sued in civil court, and ordered to pay compensation. If a company agrees not to purchase products manufactured in the settlements, it could be barred from government contracts. If an NGO joins the global BDS call, it could be stripped of its non-profit status, and compelled to pay taxes as if it was a commercial firm.”

Although boycotts may be conceived of as a tool of those outside Israel to force a change in the country’s actions regarding Palestinians, it is, internally, considered a huge obstacle to freedom of speech. Given the increasing movement toward domestic protests against Palestinian policy in Israel, it seems much more likely to effect Israelis than anyone else. It is a huge wrong turn for Israel.

Belarus protestors arrested due to social media. Last week, Belorussian police arrested 200 people in the capital alone for protesting the neo-Stalinist regime. They were able to arrest so many so quickly because this protest is known as “Revolution Through Social Networks.” For five weeks, organizers have arranged flash mobs via social networking sites.

Now, those same organizers are faced with the challenge of a police force watching, and sometimes shutting down, the popular sites they have been using. The police have also engaged in disinformation on sites like Twitter, a common tactic of repressive regimes who’ve woken up to the use of social media by political opponents. They are hoping a combination of more distributed calls for physical protests, along with “older” tech (filming police brutality and distributing it via DVD) will help continue the momentum and attract less techie dissidents to the cause.

Egypt resurrects Information Ministry. In a scene from a mummy movie, Egypt, largely controlled by the military in the wake of Mubarak’s departure, has brought the notorious Information Ministry back to life. Though considered a force for change during the protests which chased the long-term president and his clique from power, the military is now regarded by many to be the primary obstacle to reform in the country. It has taken on a rigid and repressive posture it did not seem to have before. The military courts have sentenced a blogger to prison time and remanded many others for interrogation.

The Information Ministry was abolished in February. Now, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi has brought it back and appointed Osama Heikal, former editor-in-chief of the Al-Wafd newspaper, as its minister. Tantawi asked Heikal to “reorganize the Egyptian media and draw up a plan that addresses all the shortcomings that came from abolishing the post of minister of information.”

Another blow to the possibilities of change in Egypt. Not a terminal one, but far from trivial.

U.A.E. blogger’s trial to resume next week. Ahmed Mansour, a blogger who was arrested in April, went to his initial trial session on June 14. He returns next week. Mansour had created a petition calling for democratic reform in the autocratic emirates.

Tel Aviv photo by ZeHawk, Israel protest photo by Neta

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