Israeli House Passes Ban on Settlement Boycotts

July 11, 2011 - 3:59 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's parliament has approved a contentious law against boycotts targeting Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The vote late Monday was 47 to 36 in favor of the law. It allows settlers or settlement-based businesses to sue Israelis who promote boycotts of settlements for damages.

Backers of the law insists it is necessary to protect Israelis living in the West Bank. Opponents charge it is an anti-democratic attempt to curtail freedom of speech.

Palestinians, backed by much of the world, consider the settlements illegal encroachment on land they claim for a state.

The law is one of a string of initiatives by hawkish Israelis to limit activities they consider anti-Israel.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

QALQILIYA, West Bank (AP) — Several newly arrived foreign activists joined Palestinians in tearing down part of an Israeli fence in the West Bank Monday, local activists said.

Some of the foreigners who took part in the protest were among those who had flown into Israel over the weekend, the local activists said. Organizers of the fly-in, which was to bring some 600 activists to the West Bank, have said the campaign is a peaceful show of solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

Monday's incident took place near the Palestinian village of Izbet Attabeb. In the area, a fence of coils of barbed wire cuts through farmland along a main east-west road, villagers said. The fence keeps Palestinians from accessing the road from the village, they said, though it is open to Palestinians in other sectors.

About 10 of the foreign activists joined about 50 Palestinians in tugging at and tearing down parts of the fence, villagers said.

The Israeli military said there was minor damage to the fence, and the protesters dispersed without military intervention.

Several of the foreign activists said they had arrived in recent days, but they refused to give their names for fear of deportation. Several other foreigners stayed in the village during the demonstration.

The fly-in to Israel was organized as plans fell through to send a flotilla of ships to challenge Israel's sea blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel issued a blacklist to airlines to stop most of the foreigners from boarding planes over the weekend. Israel arrested 130 others on arrival, but scores more were permitted to enter, and a few went to the West Bank to demonstrate.

Israel was deporting all the detained activists, said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad. She said 58 were still being held Monday and would be deported as soon as foreign airlines agreed to take them.

Israel's president, meanwhile, thanked his visiting Greek counterpart Monday for Greece's role in stopping the flotilla of ships that was supposed to sail toward Gaza last week and challenge Israel's sea blockade.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told Greek President Karolos Papoulias, "Your contribution to lower tensions benefits the entire region as well as Gaza itself."

The visit reflects rapidly improving relations between Israel and Greece. Israel has called the flotilla a dangerous political provocation. Greece stepped in to prevent the boats from leaving its ports.

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Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed reporting.