June 21, 2018

Texas city says no hurricane aid if you boycott Israel

22 October 2017, 02:23 | Marta Robbins

TX City Requires That Aid Recipients Do Not Boycott Israel

To get Harvey relief funds, residents of Dickinson must vow not to boycott Israel

If you're a resident of a small Texas city and in need of hurricane recovery funds, you'll have to certify that you're not boycotting Israel.

As of Sep. 2017, 21 states have enacted anti-BDS laws, according to Palestine Legal, an independent organization in the us that seeks to protect the Palestinian solidarity movement from "efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction".

The law is limited in scope to companies, however - and the city has not explained why it would apply to all applicants for grants, which are open to people rebuilding both homes and businesses.

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union says the law is unconstitutional and City of Dickinson is caught in the middle.

And, King adds, the law is aimed at preventing taxpayer money from going to companies boycotting Israel.

"We're just trying to do what's right, comply with state law and make sure the residents get every benefit that we can lawfully give them", Olson said.

"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott, and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression", ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura said in a statement.

"Dickinson's requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of "subversive" activity", ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura said in a statement.

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In addition to being mystifying - what do home repairs in Texas have to do with a country more than 7,000 miles away? - this requirement is clearly unconstitutional.

"The Supreme Court has made very clear that participation in political boycotts is fully protected by the First Amendment", said ACLU staff attorney Brian Hauss. The law was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on May 2 and went into effect on September 1.

"Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally", Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement in May after signing the bill into law.

The Texas law is part of a wider trend across the United States, aimed at targeting the BDS movement. "In terms of enforcement, what I think is really pernicious about these laws is they're created to scare people", Hauss told Bustle.

"Congress has also a federal bill, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, that threatens serious sanctions against anyone who support boycotts called for by worldwide governmental organisations, such as the UN Human Rights Council", Hauss said.

"Supreme Court precedents going back to the McCarthy era establish that the government can not force people to sign loyalty oaths or other certifications regarding their political beliefs, expression and association in exchange for government benefits".

"The bottom line is that boycotts are a legitimate form of non-violent protest, and they are protected by the First Amendment".

Bustle's request for comment was not returned by Texas Gov. Abbott.

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