VOA Corrects: BDS Support Not Illegal in Israel

Following the CAMERA-prompted correction of a Reuters article last week which erroneously reported that Israel has criminalized support for the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) campaign in Israel, CAMERA has elicited correction of the same point at Voice of America. VOA’s Nov. 4 article entitled “Israeli Supreme Greenlights Deportation of Human Rights Monitor,” had erroneously asserts that “support for BDS is illegal in Israel.” BDS refers to the anti-Israel boycott, divest and sanctions campaign.

Support for BDS is not illegal in Israel.
Israel’s anti-BDS legislation treats public calls for BDS as a civil, not criminal offense. Specifically, the 2011 “Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Through Boycott,” as amended by the Supreme Court, allows businesses that have suffered economic harm as a result of such boycotts to sue for civil damages. There is no criminal component, and therefore it is not illegal. 
Incidentally, the English text of the 2011 bill is helpfully provided by Adalah, an Israel-based organization which itself has engaged in BDS activity. Speaking at Cambridge University in November 2017, Adalah Justice Project Director Nadia Ben-Youssef stated: 
Adalah as a Palestinian organization based in Israel – because of this law has a prohibition on it with regard to the call for BDS. The law says that if you call for boycott- it had creating a new civil wrong, you can be sued in court if you call for a boycott of Israel. So Adalah has pivoted its argument about BDS, for the right to boycott… Adalah support the right to boycott…we believe in the pillars of the BDS movement.

Illustrative image of a BDS protest in Australia, 2010 (Photo by Mohamed Ouda/Wikimedia)

(According to its web site, the “Adalah Justice Project began as the US Program of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah).” As of this writing, Ben-Youssef’s LinkedIn profile indicates that she has worked for Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel since 2013, but Adalah’s site does not list her as an employee.) Thus, Ben-Youssef confirms that a) calling for BDS in Israel is a civil, not criminal, offense; and b) Adalah in Israel “believe[s] in the pillars of the BDS movement.”
On Nov. 6, Reuters corrected the same point after it incorrectly reported that Israel criminalized BDS. A correction now posted at the top of Reuters article makes clear:
(This November 5 story corrects erroneous reference to BDS movement being criminalized and adds explanation that foreign BDS activists can be barred from entering the country)
In addition, the amended Reuters text now accurately reports: 
Calling for boycotts of the state is not a crime in Israel, but those who do so can be subject to civil lawsuits.
In response to communication from CAMERA, on Nov. 7 VOA commendably deleted the erroneous claim that support for BDS is illegal in Israel. It amended reported now includes the added accurate information:
Israeli law allows for the deportation of foreigners who support boycotting Israel and denying their entry into the country.
Moreover, editors commendably added the following note at the top of the article alerting readers to the correction:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the BDS movement is illegal in Israel.

This post was amended on Nov. 12 to correct the spelling of Nadia Ben-Youssef’s name and to add more information about the close relationship between the Adalah Justice Project and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

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