What is +972’s stance on BDS?

The simple answer is that we don’t have one. The website is a collective of authors, each of whom have their own opinions about BDS. Some oppose it, some support it; some, like yours truly, support the D but are not particularly fond of the BS. But unfortunately, our ability to freely discuss this key aspect of the fight against the occupation has been severely and deliberately crippled by recent legislation. We may still carry opinions on BDS; but outright calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions hold far too great a risk for our site – a risk we are not in the financial position to take. Since we are legally responsible for all content appearing on the website, this obligates us to erase outright calls, and only outright calls for BDS from the comment thread as well.

Here is how it works: In May 2011, the Knesset passed the notorious “Boycott Law”. The Boycott Law does not make it a criminal offence or even misdemeanour to call for boycott. Neither any of us, nor any of readers will go to jail for making such a call. But the law does allow anyone who feels they have been materially impaired by that hypothetical call to sue us for damages – without actually proving any damages were suffered. In other words, if a reader was to publish a comment explicitly calling for BDS, tomorrow the website could be slammed with a massive lawsuit by some other reader or a right-wing “lawfare” organisaton. Even if we won the case in the long run, the legal fees would have sunk us very quickly – our budget is minimal, not to say minute, and we have no assets we can liquify and throw into the fight.

Considerable consternation and agitation were provoked yesterday, when Lisa wrote:

None of the contributors to this site is permitted to express a position either against or in favour of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement. Since +972 is also responsible for the comments, we delete any mention of BDS in the comment threads.

Thankfully, this is little more than an innocent misinterpretation of our editorial policy. We are not banned from expressing “any position”, and we certainly do not delete “any mention” of BDS. Only outright and explicit calls for boycott, and we do so with a heavy heart. As our managing editor, Shir Harel, wrote on Think Progress a few months ago:

We are proud to be a collective of bloggers whose opinions span the political spectrum, supplemented with a diverse roster of guest contributions. Yet this law has made it impossible for us to maintain an equal platform for everyone to make their argument heard. What’s more, as our website is legally responsible for comments our readers leave, we are now compelled to monitor and edit any comments that voice support for boycotts. We can’t even allow our readers the chance to freely argue back with us.

It may well be argued that by not censoring the anti-boycott voices as well, we are co-opted by the state into lending unfair advantage to BDS opponents. Good point; but I, at least, personally feel that while we are forced to enforce some of the state censorship, there’s no need to be overzealous and amplify this obscene little law by shutting down BDS discussions as a whole.

We allow any and all conversation on BDS, except clear and outright calls for boycott. We do this not because we are keen to enforce any purported interest or policy of this or any government – there is nothing that is more anathema to this website; and not because there is a collective stance on this issue. We do it simply because we don’t want to lend reactionaries an even greater victory by allowing them to sink the entire site.