Source: Gush Shalom
Bagatz is the Hebrew acronym for "High Court of Justice," the Israeli equivalent of a constitutional court. It plays a very important role in Israeli public life.
Having a ground-breaking Supreme Court decision named after you confers a kind of immortality. Long after you are gone, lawyers quote your case and refer to the judgment.
Take Roe v. Wade, for example. Whenever abortion is debated in the US, Roe v. Wade (1973) comes up, though few remember who Jane Roe and Henry Wade actually were. Now there is "Uri Avnery and Others v. the Knesset and the State of Israel," which came up this week before the Israeli Supreme Court. It concerns the anti-boycott law enacted by the Knesset.
A few hours after the law was passed, Gush Shalom and I personally submitted to the court our application to annul it. We had prepared our legal arguments well in advance. That's why it bears my name. The applicants rather disrespectfully called "Others" are about a dozen human rights organizations, both Jewish and Arab, who joined us.
After this ego-trip, let's get to the point.
THE COURT session was rather unusual. Instead of the three justices who normally deal with such applications, this time nine judges -- almost the full complement of the court -- were seated at the table. Almost a dozen lawyers argued for the two sides. Among them was our own Gabi Lasky, who opened the case for the applicants.
The judges were no passive listeners fighting boredom, as they usually are. All nine judges intervened constantly, asking questions, interjecting provocative remarks. They were clearly very interested.
The law does not outlaw boycotts as such. The original Captain Charles Boycott would not have been involved.
Boycott was an agent of an absentee landlord in Ireland who evicted tenants unable to pay their rent during the Irish famine of 1880. Instead of resorting to violence against him, Irish leaders called on their people to ostracize him. He was "boycotted" -- no one spoke with him, worked for him, traded with him or even delivered his mail. Pro-British volunteers were brought in to work for him, protected by a thousand British soldiers. But soon "boycotting" became widespread and entered the English language.
By now, of course, a boycott means a lot more than ostracizing an individual. It is a major instrument of protest, intended to hurt the object both morally and economically, much like an industrial strike.
In Israel, a number of boycotts are going on all the time. The rabbis call on pious Jews to boycott shops which sell non-kosher food or hotels which serve hot meals on the holy Sabbath. Consumers upset by the cost of food boycotted cottage cheese, an act that grew into the mass social protest in the summer of 2011. No one was indignant.
Until it reached the settlements.
IN 1997 Gush Shalom, the movement to which I belong, declared the first boycott of the settlements. We called upon Israelis to abstain from buying goods produced by settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories.
This caused hardly a stir. When we called a press conference, not a single Israeli journalist attended -- something I have never experienced before or since.
To facilitate the action, we published a list of the enterprises located in the settlements. Much to our surprise, tens of thousands of consumers asked for the list. That's how the ball started rolling.
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