Israel passes law banning settler boycotts

Israel's parliament has approved a contentious law that would allow illegal settlers in the West Bank to seek damages from Israelis who promote boycotts of settlements.

Critics of the law, including opposition parliamentarians and civil liberties groups, say the measure is anti-democratic.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement that making "the boycott of Israeli settlement products punishable by law will send a clear message that Israel is not committed to a two-state solution".

Rights group Amnesty International released a statement on Tuesday saying the law "will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Israel".

"Despite proponents’ claims to the contrary, this law is a blatant attempt to stifle peaceful dissent and campaigning by attacking the right to freedom of expression, which all governments must uphold," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"The broad definition of boycott could apply to anyone seeking to use this non-violent means of dissent to criticise any individual or institution involved in human rights violations or violations of international law in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

The bill, sponsored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, was carried by 47 to 38 in the 120-seat parliament on Monday night. Netanyahu did not vote.

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