HomeAnti-boycott laws can overturn the right to participate in a boycott

Anti-boycott laws can overturn the right to participate in a boycott

When set Of the filmmakers who visited the Capitol in Arkansas last year to interview Senator Bart Hester, the Republican majority leader and primary sponsor of a bill requiring state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel, they unexpectedly met Senator Greg Linding, a Democrat. Leading, like nearly all of his Senate colleagues, voted in favor of the bill. After he was caught off guard by the cameras, he told the filmmakers that when some of his voters criticized his vote, “He totally forgot about it, and he wasn’t even sure how I’d voted. … We vote 2,000 times during the session, and it was one of those times [bills] That for whatever reason was not on my radar.”

“The Palestinian movement here does not know the other side of the issue,” Hester quipped. No one has heard the other side of the controversy. I doubt there was any question. I just flew.”

The exchange was captured in one of the most poignant scenes of “boycottA new film released this month documents US legislative efforts to quell criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Leading tells the filmmakers that he “regrets”[s] I don’t know more about this issue” when he voted for the bill and that he would have voted against it if he had done so. “I don’t know that, unfortunately, many corners know that this is the law.”

Arkansas is one of 33 states that have passed legislation to boycott Israel by US state legislatures since 2015. The bills came in response to growing global support for a peaceful Palestinian-led movement to oppose the occupation through boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, known as BDS. The film is produced by a non-profit organization just seeing, detailing the insidiousness of legislation that passed virtually without any scrutiny or public regression and the fragility of constitutional protections intended to protect the rights of Americans to hold and express political opinions contrary to those of their government.

“That moment in the movie is pretty emblematic of how these laws are passed,” Julia Pasha, the film’s director, told The Intercept, referring to the unplanned confrontation with Leding. That’s right, they have to vote on a lot of bills, but if the bill is presented as pro-Israel, Democrats and Republicans voted for it, the vast majority of them, I take it for granted, didn’t even bother to read it fully and understand its constitutionality.

The film tells the stories of people in three states who refused to sign an anti-BDS pledge as a condition of receiving government money: Alan Leverett, founder and publisher of the Arkansas Times, a small, free publication that relies largely on advertisements from state agencies; Michael Gordal, an Arizona attorney who has a government contract to provide legal services to detainees; Bahia Amawi, a Palestinian-American Pediatrician from Texas The fight against the state’s anti-boycott law has been reported By The Intercept in 2018.

“The District” follows Jordal and Amawi as they successfully defy the laws of their respective states. The film’s protagonists eventually regained their contracts and forced lawmakers to amend bills, though Arizona and Texas narrow the scope laws instead of repealing them.

Leverett, a self-described former conservative, refused to sign the pledge in principle, even though his newspaper does not plan to get involved in the boycott movement. he is lawsuit Arkansas on First Amendment grounds in 2018 after one of his government ad clients insisted he sign the pledge.

His case has yet to be resolved, as a panel of judges on the Eighth U.S. Court of Appeals is reviewing an earlier ruling in his favour. The case is likely to end in the US Supreme Court.

Leverett says in a movie. “I just object to the government saying, ‘We have a lot of money here, and we’re going to give it to you, and we’re going to announce with you, but here are some conditions that you have to meet first, like, that’s the political position you have to take'” — regarding foreign policy for God’s sake And we’re in Arkansas.”

at recent days editorialLeverett doubled down: “Our paper focuses on the merits of The Sims Bar-B-Que on Broadway—why are we required to sign a pledge over a country in the Middle East?”


Bahia Amawi speaking at a press conference. Amawi, who is Palestinian, refused to sign anti-boycott language in her contract with the public school district in Austin, Texas.

Still: “interrupt”

american tradition

“Boycott” traces the origin of anti-boycott bills to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a group that spearheads many of the state’s conservative legislative efforts. The documentary also details how the Israeli government bypassed US laws against foreign interference Creation of a non-governmental body Through it she transferred millions of dollars to American groups, which in turn lobbied in favor of bills.

He was a primary recipient of Christians United for Israel, an evangelical group that has become one of the strongest advocates of pro-Israel legislation in the United States. Jesus down to earth. At this point, Hester, the state senator, told the filmmakers that “anyone, Jew or non-Jew, who does not accept Christ, in my opinion, will end up in Hell.”

Palestine Legal, a group that protects the rights of pro-freedom Palestinians in the United States, pointed to the actions against the boycott movement. Spreaded In recent years it has evolved in response to legal challenges, for example with micro-language that applies only to large corporations rather than individual contractors. And while some provisions – such as those in Texas restrict access to the government Disaster relief funds to a pledge not to boycott Israel – was rescinded after widespread condemnation, and other measures affected state contracts, state investments such as pension funds, and universities’ access to Federal funding. At the federal level, Congress has tried and failed to pass anti-boycott legislation, including one bill Criminal Provinces Israel.

“Boycott,” weaving into archival footage of the long history of political boycotts in this country, argues that exercising one’s political beliefs by withholding money is a tradition that is an intrinsic part of the American ethos.

“I don’t blame the Israeli government for doing everything they can in this country to protect themselves,” Leverett told The Intercept in a recent interview. I expect politicians and my representatives to protect the American way, to protect our rights as Americans, and to respond and not let that happen. I look to the constitution and I look to my representative for protection, and that’s what we haven’t got.”

“I look to the constitution and I look to my representative for protection, and that’s what we don’t get.”

As a college student, Gordahl, an Arizona state attorney, participated in protests calling for divestment from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, and once faced administrative action to disrupt a meeting of trustees of Oberlin College, his alma mater. Jordal, who is now boycotting companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, said such as Hewlett-Packard. “It’s a very similar thing, the feeling that, wait a minute, we shouldn’t benefit from apartheid. It’s very simple.”

Amawi, who is Palestinian, told The Intercept that she could not bring herself to sign the anti-boycott language enshrined in her contract with the Austin Public School District while her family lives under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. The region’s only Arabic-speaking speech pathologist, she lost her job as a result. Amawi stressed that her legal battle against the state was to protect American values. “It was really abusive,” she said, referring to the pledge. I have four Palestinian-American children, and I want to make sure they don’t live in a society where they are vilified because they are Palestinian. And I want to make sure they can exercise their rights as Americans.”

US Supreme Court Rule That counties are protected by the First Amendment 40 years ago in a unanimous resolution that includes the white-owned business boycott called by the NAACP in Claiborne County, Mississippi. This decision has long been understood as protecting the right to participate in a boycott. But an Arkansas judge ruled otherwise, so Leverett and the ACLU appealed won before a panel of three judges in the Eighth Circuit. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge successfully petitioned the court to hear the case again.

“You may not care about Israel and Palestine. But you should care about whether it is being used as a hook for legislation in your state and at the federal level against free speech.”

“Until a few years ago, when these anti-boycott laws started popping up all over the country, everyone understood that Claiborne protected the right to participate in boycotts,” said Brian Hoss, an attorney with the ACLU who has sued two cases of The three issues depicted in The Intercept. Instead, he said, the government now appears to be arguing that “Clayburn only protects the right to call for a boycott but not the right to participate.”

Defenders are now watching closely while the Eighth District Committee reviews this decision. “It would be shocking for the court to say there is no right to participate in a political boycott, given the long history of boycotts in this country all the way back to the Boston Tea Party, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the apartheid boycott in the South, that’s a rich tradition,” Hoss said. .

Critics argue that the anti-boycott legislation is not only unconstitutional, but also sets a dangerous precedent. Texas legislators have used the state’s anti-boycott law as a model for passing bills that maintain corporate boycotts Fossil fuels And firearms from obtaining state contracts. The film notes that at least four other states have introduced similar legislation.

A scene in “Boycott” imagines the possibilities, as the text of a bill appears that switches from penalizing support for the boycott to other positions such as “supporting black lives matter” or “supporting Greenpeace.”

“You might not care about Israel and Palestine,” says Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, in the film. “But you should care if it is used as a hook for legislation in your state and at the federal level against free speech.”