Laws Targeting Israel Boycotts Fail First Legal Test

Issuing the first decision of its kind, a federal judge today blocked enforcement of a Kansas law targeting boycotts of Israel, ruling in an ACLU lawsuit that the First Amendment protects the right to engage in political boycotts.

The Kansas law requires that any person or company that contracts with the state sign a statement that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” The ACLU brought the lawsuit in October on behalf of Esther Koontz, a schoolteacher who refused to sign the certification. Today’s decision, an important victory for political speech, will allow her to resume her work. Thanks to the order, Kansas is prohibited from enforcing its law while the case proceeds.

This is the first ruling to address a recent wave of laws nationwide aiming to punish people who boycott Israel, and it should serve as a warning to other states with similar provisions, including one we are challenging in Arizona. It correctly recognizes that forcing an individual to choose between exercising their rights and contracting with the state is unconstitutional.

Here are the key takeaways from the decision:

There is no question that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a political boycott.

The Supreme Court made this clear with its landmark decision in NAACP v. Claiborne, which found that a civil rights-era boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi was protected by the Constitution. Judge Daniel D. Crabtree relied on Claiborne in finding that the First Amendment clearly protects Esther’s decision to “band together” with others in a boycott in order to:

express collectively their dissatisfaction with the injustice and violence they perceive, as experienced both by Palestinians and Israeli citizens. She and others participating in this boycott of Israel seek to amplify their voices to influence change, as did the boycotters in Claiborne.

 

The law seriously harms our client.

Esther is a veteran math teacher and trainer who was told she would need to sign the certification statement in order to participate in a state program training other math teachers. She boycotts consumer goods and services produced by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. She does so in order to protest the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and to pressure the government to change its policies. As a result, she could not in good conscience sign the statement and thus couldn't participate in the state program.

The judge correctly recognized the political litmus test the state was imposing on Esther:

Plaintiff’s harm stems not from her decision to refuse to sign the certification, but rather from the plainly unconstitutional choice the Kansas Law forces plaintiff to make: She either can contract with the state or she can support a boycott of Israel.

As the court held, that is not permissible.

 

Kansas passed the anti-boycott law to silence one voice: those challenging Israel.

Judge Crabtree also recognized the law’s true purpose:

The Kansas Law’s legislative history reveals that its goal is to undermine the message of those participating in a boycott of Israel. This is either viewpoint discrimination against the opinion that Israel mistreats Palestinians or subject matter discrimination on the topic of Israel. Both are impermissible goals under the First Amendment.

Some two dozen other states have passed laws specifically targeting those who oppose one side of the Israel-Palestine debate. They should all take note of today’s decision.

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Dr. Timothy Leary

The Israelis have been oppressing the Palestinians since the 1940's. Why, all of a sudden, is this big issue?

Canadian

Because in recent years the International collusion network of zionists have been working in overdrive in order to shut everyone up so they do not reveal the unspeakable abuse that they inflict upon everyone that they deal with; the biggest sufferers of all being the Palestinians.
The reason they work in overdrive is that people are "talking" more and more about that issue due to the proliferation of the internet and social media platforms, which makes hiding things from the world very difficult.
In recent years, the zionists have succeeded so much in influencing US lawmakers, that Americans have effectively lost their liberty to speak the truth without reprisals and has thereby technically become a vassal state of Israel, despite the vast difference in size and the ridiculousness of it all, so it is no longer a question of Israel/Palestine, but a question of US/Israel and a question of US sovereignty and liberty.

Anonymous

You're not seeing the forest for the trees. The issue here is not the Arab-Israeli confict per se, but rather whether the State has the right to require political litmus tests of contrators and employees in general.

Anonymous

Hilarious. It's good it failed. It'll go up to SC. Then Dershowitz & a massive legal team come in & point out that BDS very similar to Nazi era "Don't buy from Jews", it is, and bye bye BDS. It will also change boycotts in USA FOREVER. Ya gotta remember, Israel is a JEWISH STATE that has over 1.5 MILLION Muslim citizens. So you see, BDS is just another form of Nazi as are most of the people that support it. Canary Mission exposes more and more every single day.

Anonymous

1) Because, until recently, things had been improving (albeit slowly and fitfully). Recently, though, the rate at which Israeli settlements have been built in Palestinian territory, followed promptly by annexation of that territory, has been increasing.
2) In the last 15 or so years, the "it's the end of the world, we need to support Israel so they can build the Third Temple" faction of Evangelicals has done a lot of organizing and gained a *lot* of political influence. They've found unlikely allies (and funding) in the defense contractors who sell arms to Israel with the money we supply.
3) Stupid laws like the one in Kentucky are a new tactic by these same Evangelicals, for whom it's a win-win. If they get to enforce it, they support Israel in some odd way (because there's *so much* Israeli product in the US for most people to boycott). If it gets struck down, they get to tell their base how much of an anti-godly liberal bias there is in the courts today.

Voice of Reason

This is so obviously an illegal law. I can't understand why it even needs this much scrutiny. Throw out this obviously illegal law, Kansas (and Arizona).

Grito

Equating to to Nazi policies is patently ridiculous. Nazis were ordering people to boycott. This is the opposite. Kansas is telling people from whom they must buy. What's next? Can Iowa tell us we can't boycott Saudi Arabia?

Anonymous

The equation is you either did the way the nazi party tells you or you won’t work and off to jail, it is an acceptable comparison due to the state has no right to do this, neither did the nazis

Anonymouschris

Yes the Kansas law is nothing but blackmail, at the very least it is coercion .

Ron

Can any zionist apologist explain why it is legal for evangelicals to boycott an American company such as Disney, but illegal to boycott a foreign government?Well, some foreign governments. You can still boycott North Korea or Iran. I guess,because Jesus.

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