A city in Texas is demanding that residents applying for disaster relief funding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey promise that they will not boycott Israel. The application is mainly comprised of unremarkable legalities, with one notable exception: a clause stating that the applicant will not take part in a boycott of Israel for the duration of the grant.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) slammed the authorities for including a condition that violates free speech rights. He noted the ACLU was now involved in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law that went into effect July 1 and requires any individual or company seeking a contract with the state provide written verification they're not engaged in a boycott against Israel.
The Israel boycott provision in Dickinson's application is a strict interpretation of a Texas state law passed earlier this year that prohibits state agencies from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.
"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". "Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally". This definitely should not apply to individuals because even the state law does not require that it be applied to individuals, just to companies.
As of Sep. 2017, 21 states have enacted anti-BDS laws, according to Palestine Legal, an independent organization in the USA that seeks to protect the Palestinian solidarity movement from "efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction".
Mayor Masters and other officials created a grant relief program so they could best allocate that money, public money that became subject to the same laws of the state aka House Bill 89.
So, why is the city of Dickinson asking relief grant applicants to certify that they are not now boycotting Israel and will not boycott the country while the agreement is in effect?
Bryan Milward, a management assistant for the city of Dickinson, said that the clause is included in the application because of a Texas state law.
The Texas law is part of a wider trend across the U.S., aimed at targeting the BDS movement.
The ACLU said that Galveston, San Antonio and Austin have all implemented this law, but Dickinson believes it's the first community to be spotlighted. "We don't want to take away anyone's freedom of speech." she said.
"The bottom line is that boycotts are a legitimate form of non-violent protest, and they are protected by the First Amendment".
Back in May, Governor Greg Abbott signed the anti-boycott, divestments and sanctions bill.
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