There is a difference between speech and war. Both are forms of expression, to be sure. But the essence of the former is engagement, and the essence of the latter is destruction.
This distinction is apparently too subtle for many of Israel’s Supreme Court justices. On Sunday, the Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the 2011 Anti-Boycotts law. The law allows targets of boycotts to sue boycotters for damages in civil courts, and empowers the finance minister to revoke the non-profit status of NGOs that engage in boycotts. It is being challenged by a consortium of foreign-funded, radical, anti-Zionist NGOs.
The essence of boycotts is destruction, not engagement.
True, boycotters express an opinion when they boycott their targets. But just so, armies express an opinion when they bomb enemy targets.
The question is not whether in levying boycotts, the boycotters are expressing a position. It is whether the primary purpose of a boycott is to express an opinion or to annihilate its target.
As a form of economic warfare, boycotts aim to harm the profitability of targeted entities and either force them to toe the boycotters’ line, or force them out of business. That is, the aim is either coercive or eliminationist.
As a form of cultural warfare, the goal of boycotts of cultural or academic institutions is to place their targets outside of polite society, and so annihilate them culturally, professionally and socially.
In other words, unlike other forms of expression, the principle aim of boycotts is not engagement, or even incitement. It is destruction. Therefore, the question of whether or not boycotts are also a form of speech is entirely irrelevant.
But not for Israel’s Supreme Court justices. In their hearing on Sunday, the justices insisted that boycotts are primarily a force of engagement and as such, protected speech.
Or at least some boycotts are.
As they argued it, there is a distinction between boycotts of Israeli entities within and beyond the 1949 armistice lines.
In maintaining faith with the absurd claim that boycotts are indistinguishable from newspaper columns, and then making a distinction between boycotts within the armistice lines and boycotts of Israeli entities operating beyond them, the Court did more than show its hand. It exposed a leftist establishment’s incapacity to deal with the anti-Zionist Left.
For the past 25 years, the leftist establishment has coalesced around the view that there is a distinction between Israel within the 1949 armistice lines and Israel beyond those lines. The former is entirely legitimate.
The latter is the bane of Israel’s existence.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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