The Israeli High Court took a middle road on the controversial Anti-Boycott law on Wednesday, allowing some parts of it to stand while striking down other parts, overall making it more difficult to mount boycotts against Israeli businesses.
The expanded nine-judge panel rendered what may become a landmark decision, empowering the Finance Minister to impose fines and withhold funding from Israeli NGOs backing boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel and giving him the prerogative to file lawsuits against those NGOs.
However, the court disallowed as unconstitutional a section of the law that provides for punitive damages in such lawsuits. Both decisions were unanimous.
In a 5-4 vote, the majority determined that the lawsuits could proceed even if they were against groups that only called for boycotts of “1967 Israel,” referring to Israeli communities beyond the Green Line.
Left wing opponents of the law argued that restricting boycotts by making them prosecutable violates the right of free speech. During hearings, the justices appeared to be sympathetic to their arguments, but in the end came down largely on the side of protecting people from the “speech” rights of the boycotters.