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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Anonymous

There's no justice in Israel, because you cannot have justice on stolen ground.

Anonymous

I'm not unconsciously self-hating.
Just not a Zionist, like most people of Jewish descent around the world.

RhetoricBunny

I have no affiliation with the State of Israel, nor do I engage in commerce with the State of Israel, as I am a US citizen and therefore employ my government to engage with foreign states on my behalf. That being said, I choose to buy American made goods and therefore will oppose any attempt by a body of government, be it a municipality or the state, to withhold disaster relief from the people who need it based on their business practice. As a Gentile, such an act can be likened to minuth and epokorsuth to a Jew. According to Jewish teachings, Jews are duty-bound to make exceptions for and reach out to non-Jewish individuals as mitzvah. They are also required to wholly separate themselves from such organisations, as they are but institutions of minuth and epokorsuth. It is that very same sentiment that drives me to dutifully reject the Congregations of Heretics and kindly accept its people. If antisemitism is alive today, I promise you that by holding disaster victims' access to recovery funds ransom, you will only strengthen anti-Semitic sentiment among the American people and foster hatred against the Jewish people. If I had it my way, I would tell Israel that if they cannot stand on their own against the tremendous pressure under which their nation's antagonistic actions have placed them, then perhaps they have lost favor in the eyes of their God. I am as free of Israel as Israel is independent of the United States. Hope that puts matters into perspective.

Alf Alpha

Very well said. Thank you.

David Timmons

Whether democrat or republican, those putting Israel ahead of Americans are traitors.

Alf Alpha

To understand who rules you, discover who you cannot criticize.

Anonymous Danny...

This requirement is so wrong. There’s a good possibility that BiBi’s covert operations was behind 9/11 , he is a murderer and Evil. The crimes against the Palestinian people committed by Israeli soldiers is well documented and captured on film. The fact that they cut off water or power for days at a time is beyond criminal. America is close to being a true “ FASCIST REGIME “ !

Anonymous

Pretty sure they'd be able to get a whole new house with the settlement they'd win in court for First Amendment rights violations.

And, if Israel itself is pushing for these kinds of asinine policies, they should know that the vast majority of people hold the (accurate) belief that, if your principles, ideologies and such require coercion to get people to adopt them, then they're shit, and those behind them are corrupt. Does Israel really want to continue to erode its already severely damaged image?

Edward Applebaum

The concept of a Jewish religious state is Un-American. The Jewish ethnicity is not the problem. Cult-like religion is the problem. This law is for Christians and crazy right-wing Jews. So much for separation of church and state. Proud athiest American here.

Jamie Mathis

The way things are going in Texas (I'm a resident & Jewish) I wouldn't put it past them to have ppl swear to never have an abortion, always support Israel and always vote Republican before they can get any assistance in rebuilding. Texas legislature is as corrupt ad the day is long. When Ted Cruz is involved you know things are going to be sick and twisted and less than constitutionally legal. Meanwhile, while they swear they won't boycott Israel, what are they doing to support Jews in Texas? Nothing. Can't find a temple within 100 miles of my county. So there's that too. Hypocrisy and corruption is the Texas way since the republicans gerrymandered themselves into permanent power. It's become a cesspool here. Never come here if you don't have to.

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