The Knesset did not violate constitutional rights when it legislated a bill aimed at punishing those who call for a boycott of Israel, the Israeli High Court of Justice said Wednesday.
A panel of nine justices ruled that the Law for the Prevention of Boycotts Targeting Israel is constitutional, noting that the state of Israel has the right to defend itself against those who want to forcefully undermine its foundation.
The court said it is possible to reconcile freedom of speech with certain restrictions on boycotts, so long as the restrictions are designed to protect the state from a real threat to its wellbeing.
The 2011 law, sponsored by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), says that the government may seek damages from anyone who actively promotes an economic, cultural, or academic boycott of Israel or any other entity because of its affiliation with the Jewish state. This includes boycott campaigns that target Judea and Samaria.
The law allows the Israeli finance minister to prevent those who promote or take part in such a boycott from submitting bids for various projects, and to deny them state funding and other benefits.
During court hearings, the state said the bill would help safeguard Israel’s stature on the world stage and protect its foreign relations. Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel had petitioned the High Court shortly after the law’s enactment, claiming the measure imposes a “price tag” on legitimate political views and undermines public discourse on controversial issues in Israeli society.