“Middle East’s only democracy” passes law against free speech

We have had plenty of occasion to point out before: Isn’t it funny that those who invoke the supposed superiority of Western culture the loudest are the quickest to betray those values which supposedly make it superior (pluralism, tolerance, etc.)? It is nearly hilariously ironic in the case of Israel, whose apologists repeat like a mantra that it is “the Middle East’s only democracy,” in contradistinction to all those Arab dictatorships. When push comes to shove, however, pluralism and tolerance get chucked overboard. The Knesset has just passed a law banning calls for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The Israel-based website BoycottIsrael!—”Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within”—remains online at the moment, and it will be interesting to see if any action is taken against it. Here are the basic facts from Ha’aretz, July 11:

The Knesset passed Monday a law penalizing persons or organizations that boycott Israel or the settlements, by a vote of 47 to 38.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not present during the vote. MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), who proposed the law, said the law is not meant to silence people, but “to protect the citizens of Israel.”

According to the law, a person or an organization calling for the boycott of Israel, including the settlements, can be sued by the boycott’s targets without having to prove that they sustained damage. The court will then decide how much compensation is to be paid. The second part of the law says a person or a company that declare a boycott of Israel or the settlements will not be able to bid in government tenders.

MK Nitzan Horowitz from Meretz blasted the law, calling it outrageous and shameful. “We are dealing with a legislation that is an embarrassment to Israeli democracy and makes people around the world wonder if there is actually a democracy here,” he said. Ilan Gilon, another Meretz MK, said the law would further delegitimize Israel.

And all of this to avoid a nonviolent pressure campaign to keep Israel from carrying out its slow ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and even of Arabs within Israel. Ultimately, demographic reality is going to force Israel to chose between being a democracy and being a “Jewish state,” with its implication of first and second-class citizenship—just like the USA, with its recent spate of draconian anti-immigrant laws, will have to chose between being a democracy or an Anglo state. Europe, with its recent spate of draconian anti-Muslim laws, faces a similar dilemma. The West as a whole will have to decide wether what is good about the West is democratic political culture or simple ethnic supremacism—the same thing which is decried as despotism in non-western cultures.

See our last post on Israel/Palestine.


  1. Glenn Beck does the Knesset
    How interesting that the Knesset passed the atrocious anti-free speech bill the same day that professional right-wing idiot Glenn Beck addressed the august body! A report by Ami Kaufman on the progressive Israeli website +972 states:

    The Glenn Beck circus at the Knesset today had it all: Ecstatic fans who pushed and shoved to meet him; a theatrical as ever Beck, pounding on the table and yelling “Amen”; MK Arieh Eldad saying the occupation must end (the Islamic occupation of Israel) and even some chit-chat and shaking of hands with one of Israel’s most famous Kahanists, Baruch Marzel. The attendees and MKs couldn’t get enough of him, and not one would dare miss the opportunity to kiss the feet of the Holy Beck.

    How perfectly charming.

  2. Your “democracy” fetish on display again, Bill.
    That last paragraph says it all. The notion that Israel, the USA, Europe or the ‘West as a whole’ can ‘choose’ or ‘decide’ to not be ethnic-supremacist entities is philosophical idealism. They have always been that, but have been usually been able to establish and maintain formal democracy inside their borders since most of the people who have been and are now victims of that ethnic supremacy have been excluded either by geography or by lack of citizenship from using that supposed democracy to overthrow that supremacy.

    What it boils down to is that capitalist ‘democracy’ has, to the extent that it is ‘democratic’ at all, always been a method by which citizens of oppressor nations can peacefully, though not equally, argue about and decide how to maintain and extend their looting of oppressed nations, and how to divide up the loot. When they get nasty with each other, it is usually over the latter question.

    Of course, I don’t claim that these few sentences provide a full analysis of ‘democracy’ in imperialist countries. But I do claim that they point to its essential nature.

    1. “‘democracy’ fetish”?
      If you don’t like democracy, please tell us what variety of totalitarianism you prefer. Fascism? Stalinism? Religious fundamentalist?

      White supremacy and capitalism are certainly linked phenomena, but they aren’t identical, and one can at least theoretically exist without the other. I think progressives in the West should demand equal rights for all, and resist backsliding such as “English-only” initiatives and repeal of birthright citizenship. I think broadening the sphere of democracy is the only path to overthrowing white supremacy (and, more ambitiously, capitalism too). I think pointing out the contradictions in the system’s own espoused values is a useful tactic towards this aim. I think juvenile more-radical-than-thou baiting that delegitimizes the good things in Western political culture is counterproductive to this aim.

      Tell me, do you similarly troll on Counterpunch and Monthly Review, which shamelessly shill for authoritarian regimes like Iran and Belarus? Maybe you should (ahem) rethink how you apportion your passions and energies.

      1. Counterpunch and MR don’t have readers’ comments.
        It is not a matter of liking, or not liking, ‘democracy’ (or of preferring some variety of ‘totalitarianism’), but of recognizing that ‘democracy’ is always a concrete phenomenon with a class character. For that reason, I would unhesitatingly support the neo-Stalinist DPRK over the bourgeois-democratic, imperialist-client ROK in any conflict. But that certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t support struggles for democratic rights in the ROK (a.k.a. South Korea).

        BTW, Counterpunch and MR don’t have readers’ comments, or at least I couldn’t find them.

        1. Maybe WW4 Report shouldn’t either
          Ah, so you “support” the government that puts dissidents in concentration camps. Lovely. Look, nobody said that democracy doesn’t have a “class character.” Of course the US and ROK are bourgeois democracies, but you are deeply in delusion if you think North Korea is a socialist or proletarian state. The working class has been far more completely disempowered there than in South Korea or any country in the West. Milovan Djilas identified the party elite in the Communist bloc as the ruling “New Class,” but North Korea is far worse—a sort of pseudo-Stalinist totalitarian hereditary monarchy.

          You didn’t answer my question. Please do so before you continue to clutter up my blog with your annoying and intellectually dishonest foolishness.

          Monthly Review’s MRZine certainly does allow comments. Why don’t you go bother them for a while.

        2. let them eat dirt
          > would unhesitatingly support the neo-Stalinist DPRK

          I think we have a winner in the dilettante lefty poser 2011 quarterlies. I understand this website takes a perverse pleasure in interacting with you fools but I personally take comfort in your complete irrelevance regarding national and international affairs. As a serial reader of the ww4 comment threads I can comfortably conclude that you’re an idiot.

          Stalin killed more revolutionaries than Hitler. The DPRK is a hell hole and it’s downtrodden populace does not deserve the added insult, however slight, of the domestic idiot left and your pseudo intellectual big picture ideas. If there is every going to be an alternative in this country “left” of what remains of the Democratic Party liberal coalition it will have to start with the idiot left either being completely ignored or getting your heads out of your asses and coming up with alternatives that weren’t entirely discredited by the USSR and Mao.