A new law against boycotts in Israel has sparked a storm of protest. Civil rights advocates have slammed it as a jeopardising free speech, and pro-Palestinian human rights groups have condemned it, some suggesting that it endangers the country’s democratic character. After being passed in the Knesset by a vote of 47-38, it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts as to its constitutionality.
Some people read this and think: what a terrible country Israel must be, or what an awful public relations exercise this is turning out to be. I see things a little differently. This is exactly what we call democracy. A group of publicly elected representatives, who were elected by a true and correct process, have voted on a new law. There has been debate, both in the Knesset and in the media, about the law. People opposed to the law have spoken out vigorously against it. The independent judicial will review the law, and if they find it unconstitutional, they may disallow it. Isn’t this just wonderful!
Did you read about the public protests from human rights groups about the Saudi law forbidding women to drive? The Saudi Public Committee for the Rights of Women said that the law limits the freedom of half the population. The Saudi Legal Centre for Women is planning a high court challenge. Of course that is all nonsense. Any human rights groups struggle to exist let alone speak openly in Saudi Arabia. There is no free press, and no chance for citizens to challenge repressive laws in the courts.
In Syria, when citizens rise up to protest, the government has a clear process for dealing with them. They bring in the army and gun down their own citizens. In Egypt and Iran, they switch off the internet to stop the word spreading and make it harder for people to communicate and gather together. What human rights? What free speech?
No matter what you think of these new laws, know that if they pass, it will be as a result of a robust democracy at work.