By Expelling Human Rights Watch Director, Israel’s Top Court Legitimizes the Occupation

The Supreme Court’s ruling to cancel the residency and work visa of a Human Rights Watch director is another step toward legalizing the occupation and silencing its legitimate opponents. Effectively, what the justices said on Tuesday was that it’s permissible to protest a small, localized injustice, but the state is entitled to silence anyone who protests a large, sweeping injustice.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 47

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 47Haaretz

The Knesset defined illegal boycott activity as calling for “deliberately refraining from economic, cultural or academic ties with a person or any other body solely because of his association with Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, and which causes it economic, cultural or academic damage.” But the court has ruled in the past that despite this law, it’s permissible to call for boycotts in specific cases of injustice – for instance, a Jewish-owned company that discriminates, or that was built on Palestinian land.

Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine representative, also called for boycotting a specific injustice – Israel’s control over the West Bank and its illegal actions there. This is a protest over a big, broad issue, but like Shakir, many international law experts believe this is an injustice in its own right.

There’s no reason to make a distinction between someone who opposes the dispossession of a single Palestinian and someone who opposes the systematic dispossession of many Palestinians. In fact, the latter seems like a stronger basis for advocating a boycott. But according to the court, it’s the latter that violates the boycott law and justifies deporting a foreign national.

This decision is an example of the slippery slope Israel is on because of its control over the West Bank. It’s also an example of the fact that the court doesn’t always do its job – which is to serve as an obstacle to further slippage.

The original sin lies at the legislature’s door, since it passed the law banning calls to boycott areas under Israel’s control – as if Israel and the West Bank were the same thing.

But the majority of justices on the panel that discussed the law’s constitutional nature didn’t agree with proposals to draw a distinction between the state and areas under its control. They upheld the law in principle, even though it infringes on the freedom of expression of Israelis who oppose this control and the state’s conduct in the West Bank.