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Federal court in Texas blocks state law suppressing boycotts of Israel

April 26, 2019 at 11:17 am

Demonstrators supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement [Twitter]

A federal court in Texas has blocked the state’s law suppressing boycotts of Israel, ruling that the law violates the First Amendment.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this ruling constitutes the third federal court to block an anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) law as unconstitutional.

The federal court’s ruling yesterday concerned a law requiring government contractors to certify that they are not engaged in boycotts of Israel or companies that do business with Israel.

The judge ruled that the 2017 law violates the First Amendment’s protection against government intrusion into political speech and expression.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the free speech rights of all Texans,” said Tommy Buser-Clancy, staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, who argued the motion to block the law in court.

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“The right to boycott is deeply ingrained in American tradition, from our nation’s founding to today. The state cannot dictate the views of its own citizens on the Israel/Palestine conflict – or any issue – by preventing them from exercising their First Amendment right to boycott,” he added.

“We applaud this decision, though nothing about it surprises us; in its decision the court has affirmed its understanding that this law was intended to chill the expression of personal opinion,” stated Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas.

The ACLU filed its lawsuit challenging the law “on behalf of four Texans who were forced to choose between signing away their right to boycott or forgoing job opportunities and losing income”.

As reported by the Associated Press, US District Judge Robert Pitman’s 56-page opinion stated that boycotts are protected free speech, and that the law fails to serve a compelling state interest.

According to Pitman, the statute “threatens ‘to suppress unpopular ideas’ and ’manipulate the public debate through coercion rather than persuasion.”