If You’re Boycotting Israel in This Texas Town, Then No Hurricane Relief for You

If you’re a resident of a small Texas city and in need of hurricane recovery funds, you’ll have to certify that you’re not boycotting Israel.

Dickinson, Texas, announced earlier this week that it was accepting applications for grants to help residents rebuild homes and businesses damaged by Hurricane Harvey, which took a particularly devastating toll on this Houston-area town of some 20,000 people. The application is mainly comprised of unremarkable legalities, with one notable exception: a clause stating that the applicant will not take part in a boycott of Israel for the duration of the grant.

Screenshot Clause 11

In addition to being mystifying — what do home repairs in Texas have to do with a country more than 7,000 miles away? — this requirement is clearly unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects the right of Americans to participate in political boycotts, a right explicitly recognized by the Supreme Court in a case that concerned an NAACP-organized boycott to protest white supremacy in Port Gibson, Mississippi. And the government cannot force people to give up their peaceful political activity in order to be eligible for public benefits. Those kinds of ideological litmus test went out of vogue with the McCarthy-era loyalty oaths that the ACLU fought against in the 1950s and 1960s.

The clause in Dickinson’s application seems to stem from a Texas state law passed earlier this year, which bans the state from contracting with entities that boycott Israeli companies or companies that do business in Israel or its settlements. Other cities are also enforcing the law. The city of Galveston has issued guidelines requiring contractors who bid for neighborhood projects to certify that they're not boycotting Israel, and it even requires contractors providing police uniforms to sign the certification. Austin and San Antonio have implemented similar requirements.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit earlier this month against a similar law in Kansas. In that lawsuit, we represent a math teacher who was asked to certify that she doesn’t boycott Israel in order to participate in a government program training other teachers throughout the state. She said she could not sign the form in good conscience because she adheres to a boycott call from her Mennonite church, and the state refused to contract with her.

esther koontz: kansas Won’t Let Me Train Math Teachers Because I Boycott Israel

The First Amendment was designed to prevent the power of the state from coming down against one side of an important political debate. Yet numerous state legislatures have passed laws to stamp out boycotts of Israel, and Congress is looking to pass a related federal bill that the ACLU vigorously opposes.

It’s deeply concerning that these efforts are now trickling down to the municipal level as well. We encourage anyone from Dickinson asked to sign such a statement, or any other Texans asked to sign these certifications, to contact the ACLU of Texas.

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Carol

I am a Jew who believes boycotting Israel is an ill decided mistake. However, this "test " is also an ill decided mistake.

Joseph

Do not stab me in a back ONLY WHILE I AM FEEDING YOU FOR FREE! Before and after is OK. Too much to ask?

Rebekah

Replying to Joseph: Dickinson is not feeding people for free. It is providing public benefits, as the article states; these are municipal services funded by taxpayers. Those of us who are concerned about these services being withheld based on the political beliefs/activities of the recipients have recognized that this practice is a violation of the First Amendment. We don't have to prove, for example, that we are pro-life in order to attend public school, or that we are not in the KKK to get our trash and recycling collected.

anonymous

I'm a Jew, too, and I boycott Israel because I stand united with the people of Gaza and Palestine against genocide.

"Never again!" means never again, period, for anybody, not just Jews.

#ImAJewAndAIPACDoesntSpeakForMe

Alfred Robert Hogan

I am part Jewish as I belatedly discovered. Many Jewish people fully support the BDS movement because of the horrific policies and practices of the far-right-wing government in Israel. Of course, all arms and military aid should be cut off -- to Israel and all others. As a pacifist, I like to see cooperation not confrontation. I sympathize with the BDS movement and these unconstitutional Texas laws are outrageous outright. But I do want scientific, cultural, artistic, environmental, space, academic, et al exchanges to continue until Likud is down and out for good. Israel, if it is to continue, must collectively both respect and like its Arab and Persian neighbors.

Pacifists

You know who the most famous Jew passivits were? Well about 4 million who walked freely into a shower of poison gas. I don’t blame the Jews for paranoia or calls to arms. Many governments throughout history have tried to destroy them. So keep being a pacifist and suffer your death, other collect heavy weapons and strike first.

Anonymous

So, if that makes those boycotters who oppose these evil acts and pacifists, does murdering innocent women and children and destroying their homes and schools make all those Israelis “nazis?” Using your hyperbole, it certainly does.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

You can't call it boycoting anymore. The current P.C. terms are Personcotting or Unicotting.

Anonymous

Zzzzzzzzzzzz

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

All these initials are confusing me. What does BDS stand for, Big Duck Suckers ?

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