A coalition of Israeli rights groups led by Gush Shalom [advocacy website, in Hebrew] filed a challenge Tuesday in the Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] to a new law banning boycotts to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli Knesset [official website] passed the law [AFP report] Monday making it illegal to boycott the West Bank settlements and its products in protest of further settlements in the contested region. The challenge argues [press release, in Hebrew] that the law harms democracy by silencing people who have a certain position and violates the freedom of expression and right to equality. The challenge says that boycotts are a fundamental part of democracy and pointed to boycotts of British products in India led by Mahatma Ghandi and the African American boycotts during the civil rights movement in the US. Numerous groups against further expansion into the West Bank, including Peace Now [advocacy website], have taken a position against the law.
The anti-boycott law was passed despite controversy over the legality of further settlement into the West Bank, home to many Palestinians. Last year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal" [JURIST report]. The statement came two weeks after Israel announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], where Palestinians hope to establish the capital of their future state. Ban said, "the world has condemned Israel's settlement expansion plans in East Jerusalem. Let us be clear, all settlement activities [are] illegal anywhere in Occupied Territory... I urge all parties to respect sensitives and promote calm. We can and must find a way for Jerusalem to emerge from negotiations as the capital of two states with arrangements for holy sites acceptable to all." Also last year, Israel began rerouting a segment of its West Bank security barrier [official website; JURIST news archive] shifting the controversial barrier's path several hundred yards west [JURIST report] of its current location to return more than 800,000 square yards of land to Palestinian farmers. The move comes more than two years after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the government must change the route because it excessively encroached on Palestinian territory and infringed on residents' rights to access fields and orchards blocked by the barrier.