Criminalising ”the others”

Originally published in xxx

This chapter will present the criminalisation of opponents by making ordinary political actions illegal and labelling them ”terrorism” in Israel. Three examples will be used to illustrate this new form of criminalising opponents; two forms of boycott and the reactions to the result of the Palestinian elections 2006.

When the Freedom Flotilla was heading for Gaza in 2010, and IDF soldiers killed nine activists while boarding the ships the global condemnations were strong and within Israel we witnessed a wave of ”counter attacks” on all sorts of criticism of Israel. A new law making promotion of boycotts of Israeli products illegal passed the Knesset in 2011. This chapter will analyse the law, and the effect of it. This will be done in the context of the so called ”war on terror” post September 11 2001 and the Israeli domestic political context. The other form of boycott that has been criminalised and labelled ”cultural terrorists” are the artists who refuse to entertain in Israel proper or on settlements. The use of the term ”cultural terrorism” will be discussed and in addition I will describe and analyse the reactions against the winners of the fair, just, and democratic elections in Palestine 2006. In all these cases the public rhetoric used the label ”terrorists” in order to discredit and criminalise the opponents of the Israeli politics against Palestinians and others who opposed the occupation.


Global context

The United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSC) No 1968[1] and No 1973[2] were passed in the days following the attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon. Both opened up for a new approach to stop and prevent political violence. They expanded the traditional use of criminal law, police, and court systems and added adoption of international law and military means against political violence.[3] One direct result of the global efforts by states to fight ”terrorism” is an expansion of the definition and use of the term ”acts of terror”. UNSC ordered all states to implement new legislations against ”terrorists”. Due to lack of consensus on what constitutes ”acts of terror” or who are ”terrorist” these resolutions left it to each state to come up with their own definitions and use of such labels. The old UN definition from 1992; “An anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets”[4] was not accepted because it did not adequately separated ”terrorists” from ”freedom fighters”. When the the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism concluded its 15th Session on April 15, 2011 they had still not reached agreement on the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). The AHC’s report of April 15, 2011 states that “several delegations reiterated that the convention should contain a definition of terrorism, which would provide a clear distinction between acts of terrorism covered by the convention and the legitimate struggle of peoples in the exercise of their right to self-determination.”[5]

The Middle East Context

This global context is relevant and to the point in the Middle East conflicts. Many Israeli politicians in Knesset and government see themselves as under attack of ”terrorists” and the majority of Palestinians see the ongoing conflicts as part of a liberation struggle.[6]

In the multiple complex conflicts in the Middle East the Israeli legislators plays an important role in many of them. Faced by an increasing hostility from former friends and escalating international nonviolent campaigns against the Israeli policy on occupied territories and in Gaza, they have been forced to rethink their strategies. Over the last decades the State of Israel has witnessed a growing campaigns to boycott Israeli products. In the beginning the effects of such campaigns were minimal and did not constitute a threat to neither the state nor the business communities. In recent years such campaigns have both expanded in numbers and in the targets they have been focusing on. Initiatives for boycotts from Israeli citizens as well as new groups as international artists and academics have taken the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to a new level. For some businesses it makes it increasingly difficult to run as normal. Combined with well organised campaigns from the Palestinian Authorities (PA) to  boycott products from settlements these political activities have become a political force of serious proportions. Most probably more difficult to handle than the armed resistance against the occupation. The Israeli government has been forced to act against the BDS movement. The experiences and skills they have to defend the country against guerilla soldiers and other violent attacks are of little value against the non-armed, broad based citizens around the world that does not want to support the Israeli State.

Historically the political rhetoric in Israel have always included a harsh language. The strong tradition of freedom of speech was established in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The declaration states: ”it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, langiage, education and culture.[7] According to the 2005 US Department of State report on Israel, “[t]he law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice subject to restrictions concerning security issues.”[8] The declaration as well as the US report is valid for Jews in Israel but not on the same level for Arabs and other non-Jews in Israel, or on occupied territories; except for those living on settlements.

When the US-led ”War on Terror” was launched after 9-11 2001 the use of the terrorist label became more and more frequent used in Israel.



“Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel.”

Johansen, Jørgen. “Militären Jagar Terrorismens Skugga.” In Laglöst Land, edited by Janne Flyghed and Magnus Hörnqvist, 57-72. Stockholm: Ordfront, 2003.

Research, Terrorism. “What Is Terrorism?” International Terrorism and Security Research,

State, US Departement of. “Israel and the Occupied Territories.”

United Nations, Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly, and resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996. “Draft Report a/Ac.252/2011/L.1.” 2011.

UNSC. “Resolution 1368.” United Nations.

———. “Resolution 1373.” United Nations.

[1] UNSC, “Resolution 1368,” United Nations.

[2] ———, “Resolution 1373,” United Nations.

[3] See Jørgen Johansen, “Militären jagar terrorismens skugga,” in Laglöst land, ed. Janne Flyghed and Magnus Hörnqvist (Stockholm: Ordfront, 2003).

[4] Terrorism Research, “What is Terrorism?,” International Terrorism and Security Research, Accessed 2011-10-04

[5] Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly United Nations and resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, “Draft Report A/AC.252/2011/L.1,” (2011). Accessed 2011-10-04

[6] See

[8] US Departement of State, “Israel and the occupied territories,” Accessed 2011-10-04

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Posted in Political comment and analysis

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