Tuesday, 18 September, 2018

TX City Requires That Aid Recipients Do Not Boycott Israel

A volunteer helps clean up the damage at a Lutheran church in Dickinson Texas A volunteer helps clean up the damage at a Lutheran church in Dickinson Texas
Kenny Thornton | 21 October, 2017, 02:05

A Texas city is telling its residents that if they want aid to rebuild from Hurricane Harvey, they have to promise not to boycott Israel - a deal the American Civil Liberties Union says is unconstitutional.

The application contains a provision that requires applicants to agree to verification that they will not Boycott Israel, a country "guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people", according to a now redacted report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

Andre Segura, legal director for ACLU of Texas, blasted the grant aid condition as a violation of free speech and said the government can not hinge relief funds on a promise to "refrain from protected" political speech.

This comes after a Gov. Greg Abbott-backed bill prohibiting state agencies from doing business with entities that boycott Israel was approved in May.

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"I am proud to have commemorated Israel's Independence Day by signing into law Anti-BDS legislation in Texas", said Governor Abbott.

David Olson, Dickinson's city attorney, told KTRK that he's obligated by state law to put the controversial clause in the application until he's told otherwise. Austin and San Antonio have implemented similar requirements. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously supported the boycotters.

The law that Olsen mentions is known as the Anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions law (Anti-BDS).

But Dickinson isn't the only city in Texas to begin including such anti-BDS requirements in official contracts. 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. A proposal request for a new police uniform contractor issued by the city of Galveston includes a section where contractors must "verify under oath" that they do not boycott Israel. Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Kansas on behalf of a teacher challenging that state's boycott law. "In terms of enforcement, what I think is really pernicious about these laws is they're created to scare people", Hauss told Bustle.

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