ACLU Suing Texas Over Israel Boycott Law

Hanna Bogorowski | Reporter

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging a 2017 Texas state law that requires government contractors to sign a pledge promising they won’t engage in any type of boycott against Israel or territories controlled by Israel.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 89 into law in May 2017, also known as the Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) law, which bars state agencies from contracting with companies that boycott Israeli products.

“Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally,” Abbott said at the time of the law’s passing, becoming one of more than a dozen states that have also passed laws to limit working with BDS companies.

The ACLU’s lawsuit is filed on behalf of four individuals and alleges the law “violates the First Amendment’s protection against government intrusion into political speech,” according to an ACLU press release. Those include John Pleucker, a freelance writer; George Hale, a reporter; Obinna Dennar, a Ph.D. candidate; and Zachary Abdelhaid, a student at Texas State University.

“Whatever you may think about boycotts of Israel, the bottom line is that political boycotts are a legitimate form of nonviolent protest,” Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said in the release.

“The state cannot use the contracting process as an ideological litmus test or to tell people what kind of causes they may or may not support,” Saldivar added.

The ACLU’s case also comes just a day after a Texas speech pathologist, Bahia Amawi, filed her own lawsuit after she was fired from her job for refusing to sign the anti-BDS contract. (RELATED: Speech Pathologist Was Fired From Texas School District For Refusing To Sign Pro-Israel Statement. Now She’s Suing)

Amawi is an American citizen of Palestinian descent, according to The Washington Post, and is seeking an injunction intended to remove the anti-BDS clause from school contracts.

“The constitution clearly prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts,” Brian Hauss, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology project, said. “This misguided law seeks to undermine a form of protected expression that has been a part of our nation’s constitutional tradition since the founding.”

The ACLU successfully blocked similar anti-boycott state laws through the years, including ones in Kansas and Arizona, and made clear in its statement its suit is not a statement against or for Israel, and seeks to simply protect the First Amendment.

Abbott doubled down on his defense of Israel Tuesday in response to Amawi’s suit, tweeting that he will “stand with Israel” no matter what.

The ACLU’s suit specifically targets Attorney General Ken Paxton and the two universities and two school districts involved in the four plaintiffs’ cases.

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