On Heels of Anti-BDS Bill, Israel’s Right-Wing Parties Seek to Further Limit Dissent

Cross-posted from Mondoweiss.

Preface: BDS is a campaign initiated in 2005 by Palestinian NGOs of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it treats the Palestinian people with human rights and in accordance with international law. — Editor

Flush with victory from the passage of the anti-BDS bill by the Knesset on Monday, the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and Netanyahu’s Likud party are pushing two controversial legislative bills, both designed to further limit dissent and debate within Israel.

The first, and frankly scarier, of the bills proposes the creation of a “commission of inquiry” to investigate outspoken human rights groups like B’Tselem. The idea was first floated over a year ago but gained traction in sync with the anti-BDS bill. Now Yisrael Beiteinu is pushing for a vote as early as Next Wednesday.

“The Boycott Law has whetted the appetite of the settler Coalition,” MK Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Knesset’s Meretz contingent, told Ynet. “This is an attempt at perpetuating the persecution of left-wing and civil organizations. What will be the next step? Sham trials? Throwing people into gulags.”

The proposal, she added, is nothing less than “a political inquisition.”

Meanwhile, the second bill, which was proposed by Likud MKs Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin, seeks to grant the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee veto power over appointments to the Israeli Supreme Court. This would effectively give the members of the committee co-equal power with the Judicial Appointments Committee over the appointment process for Supreme Court justices and Supreme Court presidents.

What’s the big deal? One of the bill’s primary sponsors, Yariv Levin, argued that “the [judicial appointments’] bill will break the control of the elite, the radical left in the justice system and restore the sovereignty of the people and the introduction of democratic life in Israel. Those who see themselves fit to annul legislation should be subject to public scrutiny through a democratic and transparent process.”

But to the bill’s critics, the proposal is the opposite of democratic. Not only does it threaten to erase the separation between two historically independent branches of government, it also looks an awful lot like an attempt to “politicize” judicial appointments. Some of the bill’s opponents, like Hadash MK Dov Hanin, have gone so far as to suggest that it is a direct attempt to intimidate judges.

“This proposal was intended to send the Supreme Court a threatening and powerful message ahead of the hearing on the legality of the Boycott Law,” he told Ynet.

“A wave of anti-democratic legislation is threatening to drown us,” he added.

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.