07/12/2011, 00.00
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Israel adopts law to stop settlements boycott

The bill was approved yesterday by Israel’s parliament. Anyone who backs boycotting the settlements can be taken to court for damages. The vote comes as the Quartet tries to breathe new life in Israeli-Palestinian talks. Human rights groups appeal to the High Court to get the law cancelled.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Israeli parliament has passed a controversial law that will punish any Israeli individual or organisation boycotting West Bank settlements. The controversial bill was voted through 47-36. Under international law, the settlements are illegal even though Israel disputes that. Recent peace talks with the Palestinians were derailed over the issue of continued building in settlements on land that is expected to be part of a future Palestinian state.

Among recent initiatives that angered settlers and their influential political patrons was a pledge by Israeli academics and artists to boycott the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Under the new law those who sponsor a "geographically based boycott", which includes any part of the Jewish state or its settlements, could be sued for damages in a civil court by the party injured in the boycott call.

Recently for example, Israeli developers agreed not to use products or services from settlements when they signed on to help build a new modern Palestinian city, north of Ramallah.

The new law condemns appeals to boycott. The petitioner is not required to prove that "economic, cultural or academic damage" was caused, only that it could reasonably be expected from the move.

Centrist party Kadima blasted Netanyahu for his absence from the vote. “Netanyahu's government harms Israel and should be the first to pay the price,” I said. “Netanyahu's scuttle from tonight's vote does not diminish the harm he has done. He has crossed a red line of stupidity and national irresponsibility”.

Netanyahu initially wanted to defer the vote, to avoid presenting Israel in a negative light as the Quartet (United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia) gets ready to meet for a crucial discussion over the intention of the Palestinian Authority to seek UN recognition for a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians have also slammed the bill, saying that if it passes, "the content of an impending Quartet announcement regarding the possible renewal of negotiations will become irrelevant."

Israeli Labour lawmaker Eitan Cabel called the bill "a cowardly law," "another law in a series of fascist laws drafted by the government."

Several human rights groups immediately announced they would file a High Court appeal against the new law and ask that it be cancelled. They will argue that the law is anti-constitutional, that it impedes political freedom of expression, and that it violates international law and the laws of torts.
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