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Texas Judge Blocks Anti-BDS Law, Says 1st Amendment Protects Israel Boycotters

A federal judge in Texas blocked a law on Thursday that banned state entities from contracting with businesses that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Judge Robert Pitman ruled in a 56-page opinion that the law serves to “suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate through coercion rather than persuasion….This the First Amendment does not allow.”

The lawsuit was brought by Bahia Amawi, a speech pathologist who was fired for refusing to sign a new contract in which she would have had to promise not to boycott Israel. She told the court that because she is of Palestinian ancestry, she had “seen and experienced the brutality of the Israeli government against Palestinians” and so participated in BDS to support “peaceful efforts to impose economic pressure on Israel, with the goal of making Israel recognize Palestinians’ dignity and human rights.”

Laws banning states from contracting with or investing in companies or independent contractors that boycott Israel have been passed in 26 states, usually with large bipartisan majorities in the legislatures. “Texas touts these numbers as the statute’s strength,” Pitman wrote. “They are, rather, its weakness.”

“We’re not going to stop until all 26 states have this shut down or until the Supreme Court weighs in,” Carolyn Homer, a trial attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed the suit on Amawi’s behalf, told The Washington Post.

A spokesman for the Texas attorney general, Marc Rylander, told the Post that they plan to file an appeal. “We’re disappointed with the ruling essentially requiring government to do business with discriminatory companies,” Rylander said.

Anti-BDS laws have also been struck down on First Amendment grounds in Kansas and Arizona, while one in Arkansas was upheld.

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor for the Forward. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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