US judge suspends 'harmful anti-BDS law' criminalising Israel boycott

US judge suspends 'harmful anti-BDS law' criminalising Israel boycott
A law requiring Kansas workers to certify against boycotting Israel has been overturned, in an encouraging show of Palestinian solidarity amid encroaching anti-BDS legislation across the US
2 min read
31 January, 2018
Partaking in BDS is protected by the first amendment, according to the Kansas court [Getty]
A Kansas anti-BDS law requiring anyone contracted by the state to pledge against a boycott of Israel has been overturned, in a show of Palestinian solidarity 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.

"The court has rightly recognised the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law, which imposes an unconstitutional ideological litmus test," said ACLU lawyer Brian Hauss, who argued the issue in court.

"This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts."

The US District Judge, Daniel Crabtree, who passed the ruling, wrote, "[T]he Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law."

The ruling comes amid a recent escalation of legislation being passed accross the United States, aiming to counter the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movenent.

The ACLU added in their statement that they were in the process of challenging a similar law in Arizona.

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 resolutionthe 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.