Texas sued over law that 'bans' Israel boycott

Texas sued over law that 'bans' Israel boycott
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is filing a lawsuit over a state law that bans contractors from boycotting Israel or illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
3 min read
19 December, 2018
A pro-BDS protest in New York [Getty]

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas on Tuesday filed a lawsuit over a state law requiring contractors to certify that they do not boycott Israel or territories in the occupied West Bank that Israel illegally controls.

The motion argues the law forces people to choose between their First Amendment rights and their livelihoods.

The ACLU says the law went into effect last year and that similar requirements appear in more than a dozen states but still violate First Amendment protections.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with two school districts and two universities, are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the four plaintiffs bringing the suit have either lost "contracting opportunities" because they declined to sign the certification, or they signed "at the expense" of their First Amendment rights.

One plaintiff lost two service contracts from a university, and another was forced to forfeit payment for judging a debate tournament tied to a school district, according to the suit.

The suit follows a speech language pathologist's lawsuit this week against Paxton and a school district over the law. According to the earlier suit, the woman was forced to end her contractual relationship with the district because she would not sign the certification.

Tuesday's lawsuit also asks the court to declare that the certification requirement violates both the First Amendment and 14th Amendment in the US  constitution.

"We can't stay silent when states are violating the First Amendment in this way," said ACLU staff attorney Vera Eidelman. She said the ACLU has sued three other times over similar laws.

In January, a similar Kansas anti-BDS (Boycott, divestment and sanctions) law requiring anyone contracted by the state to pledge against a boycott of Israel was overturned, amid an escalation of anti-BDS laws in the US. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won the case on behalf of plaintiff Esther Koontz, as it proved that the law, which was first passed in June 2017, was a violation of the first amendment of the US constitution. 

Koontz, a teacher trainer from Kansas, had been refused a contract by the state's education authorities after she declined to certify in writing that she would not take part in a boycott against Israel. She has been undertaking a boycott at the time to protest the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, according to the court documents

According to Palestine Legal, 24 US states currently have anti-BDS legislation enacted, with 11 more with similar rulings pending.

In January, the council of New Orleans made a spectacular policy U-Turn after approving a BDS resolution, the first of its kind in a major city the American south, only to rescind the bill two weeks later after caving to pressure from pro-Israel groups.

The nonviolent BDS movement says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking an end to Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank.

Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism – a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.

But the movement, which adheres to peaceful resistance, aims to pressure Israel to adhere to international law and human rights by lobbying various states, institutions and personas to understand its oppression of Palestinians and take action as a result.

BDS operates by pressuring corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel with supporters saying activities are aimed at promoting a Palestinian statehood.

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