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Democracy at Work

By Middle EastJuly, 2011December 12th, 20232 min read

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.

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  • Ittay says:

    Hi David,
    you ask "Did you read about the public protests from human rights groups about the Saudi law forbidding women to drive?"

    Not only have human rights groups like amnesty international continually highlighted abuses of women in saudi arabia (, but even Hilary Clinton, one of the most powerful people in the world, has specifically made comments on this issues. See:

    In regards to the boycott bill, Uri Avnery wrote yesterday "A consumer boycott is a proper, democratic act by which the public can express its opinion in direct action, as we recently saw in the boycott of cottage cheese which was applauded throughout the country. Similarly, the religious community in Israel is for many years already conducting a boycott of shops and restaurants which sell non-kosher food, and they even conduct this boycott with the government funds which sustain the Chief Rabbinate and city rabbinates. Just as much as these, the community of Israeli peace seekers is entitled to conduct its own consumer action, avoid in an organized way the purchasing of products originating at settlements in the Occupied Territories – since these settlements are a negative phenomenon putting our future in jeopardy." – Uri Avnery

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