A US District Court judge has blocked the State of Texas from enforcing its anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) law against a Palestinian-American contractor who refused to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. The judge said that the law infringed Rasmy Hassouna's First Amendment rights.
Hassouna owns A&R Engineering and Testing Inc. He filed the lawsuit against the state law last November which bans the state from doing business with companies participating in the BDS movement against Israel. The complaint filed in a Houston federal court pointed out that the anti-BDS law violates the First Amendment right to participate in economic boycotts as a form of protest.
According to Al Jazeera, the 59-year-old engineer, originally from Gaza, argued that he is not anti-Semitic, but is focused only on the acts of the Israeli government. His refusal to sign the pledge put his engineering contracts with the City of Houston at risk; they are worth $150,000 to $300,000 a year.
However, on Friday, US District Court judge Andrew Hanen issued an injunction prohibiting Texas from enforcing the law.
"The speech contemplated by Rasmy's company may make some individuals — especially those who identify with Israel — uncomfortable, anxious or even angry," wrote Hanen. "Nevertheless, speech — even speech that upsets other segments of the population — is protected by the First Amendment unless it escalates into violence and misconduct… The Court does find that Hassouna authentically holds a pro-Palestinian point of view that is protected by the First Amendment."
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The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), with which Hassouna worked to file the lawsuit, hailed the court ruling.
"This is a major victory of the First Amendment against Texas's repeated attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine," said CAIR's senior litigation lawyer, Gadeir Abbas. "These regressive attempts to create a Palestine-exception to the First Amendment betray the central role boycotts have played in our history."
A number of states in the US have introduced legislation outlawing the grassroots BDS movement. Such laws are part of the attempts to Israel to have such bans imposed around the world.