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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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France Penalizes Boycott of Israeli Products

BDS activists

BDS activists
Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

This Supreme Court’s ruling is in line with earlier French jurisdiction. In September 2004, a French mayor was convicted because during a session of the town council he had called to “boycott Israeli products in protest against the Israeli politics with regard to the Palestinians.” This appeal was also posted on the town’s internet site. The mayor was convicted by the Appeal Court and by the Supreme Court. In 2007, the French Supreme Court also convicted a French firm that had given a certificate to a company in the United Arab Emirates declaring that its goods had not been transported by an Israeli company and would not be delivered to Israel.

French BDS activists who took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strassbourg, also saw their cases turned down. On 16 July 2009, the ECHR ruled that the French verdicts prohibiting boycotts of Israeli products were not violating human rights. BDS has since tried to circumvent these verdicts by emphasizing that the BDS boycotts are limited to products from the “occupied territories.” This, however, is contradicted by the website of BDS-France which calls for boycotts of Israeli products in general.

In an op-ed in the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, French lawyer Michael Ghnassia wrote that the ban on calling for a boycott of Israeli products is not an infringement of free speech because these boycotts affect all Israelis. Hence, the call to this boycott “is based on a racial, religious or national criterion and rather than representing a simple opinion, is a discriminatory action.” He points out that the boycott is also inspired by “a manifest attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel.”

While the ECHJ has upheld the French convictions, it should be noted that France is the only country in Europe where calling for a boycott of Israeli products has been prohibited. In other European countries, courts have so far not convicted BDS activities. It should also be noted that while in the United States the simple call for a boycott is protected by the First Amendment, European countries have restricted free speech and often convict people of incitement to discrimination and hatred for simply expressing their opinions about Islam. At least in France, calling for a boycott of Israeli products is treated in the same manner as would be a call for a boycott of Islamic products.

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

About the Author: Peter Martino is a European affairs columnist for the Gatestone Institute.


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