Why Can’t I Represent Incarcerated Arizonians if I Boycott Israel?

Mik Jordahl on a trip to Tel Aviv, Israel.

This piece was originally published by The Arizona Daily Star.

Each year, I renew a contract to provide legal services to incarcerated people in an Arizona county jail.

I have been doing this for 12 years without complications. Lately, though, there has been some extra paperwork that has nothing to do with my work as an attorney. Now, in order to renew my contract, I am being asked to promise that I will not participate in a boycott of Israel.

Arizona adopted a law in 2016 that prohibits the state, along with any of its towns, cities or counties, from contracting with entities that support even the limited boycott of products produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Local governmental contracts throughout Arizona now contain this political litmus test.

By design, this pledge inhibits my constitutionally protected right to protest injustices as I see them and spend my money where and how I please if I want to keep doing a job that I care about.

For many years, almost every country in the world has deemed Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be in violation of international law. Yet our government will be giving $40 billion in taxpayer assistance to Israel over the next 10 years and won’t withhold even a portion of that funding, in spite of continuing settlement expansion and its devastating effect on a two-state solution.

My interest in the Israeli-Palestinian issue isn’t new. I have visited the region previously. I raised a Jewish son. Last spring, he and I traveled together to Israel and Palestine. We met journalists, human rights advocates, Israelis, and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. No one we talked to believed that Israel would ever dismantle the more than 100 Israeli settlements peppered through the West Bank. It was painfully clear to us that Israel will not stop, and in fact has accelerated, its de facto policy of permanent Israeli occupation. On the other hand, it will never allow equal rights for the 2.8 million West Bank Palestinians in a single state.

In the face of U.S. financial support for Israel, the boycott movement has become one of the most effective forms of protest against Israel’s violations of international law. The boycott of settlement products and companies that support them has been formally endorsed, in one form or another, by Lutheran, Episcopalian, Mennonite, Methodist, Unitarian, Quaker, and Presbyterian denominations, as well as organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, the World Council of Churches, and Amnesty International.

Rational minds can disagree on whether the movement to boycott the occupation is effective or even appropriate. But do our Arizona legislators need to chip away at our First Amendment rights to express our opinions on this issue? By this logic, what would limit Arizona’s legislature from deciding they won’t do business with people and companies that support a boycott of Trump family businesses, or tobacco companies, or even the Democratic Party?

From the Montgomery bus boycott to boycotts of apartheid-era South Africa, this peaceful form of protest has long been protected by the Constitution. No matter where you stand on the issue of Israel and Palestine, it should be clear that we as individuals have a right to engage in peaceful individual boycotts and a right to not spend our private monies in the way we choose.

Mik Jordahl is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit recently filed by the ACLU challenging Arizona’s anti-boycott law. He is a practicing lawyer. The views expressed in this post are those of the author; the ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of Israel.

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Mark T. DeNucci, Sr.

I can see why you wanted to remain anonymous. You completely ignorant of the First Amendment and for what it guarantees.

Anonymous

The state of Arizona already subsidizes anti- latino, anti- gay, anti- transexual and anti-native mindsets so why the worry over anti-Isreali ( and it is against a country's decisions, not Jewish people or their religion. )

Anonymous

There is no subsidy involved. While it saddens me to admit it, ACLU is correct on this one; this is an injustice. ...I wouldn't say a constitutional violation, but a violation none the less. You can't ban someone from practicing law because they won't buy goods from a certain area. The morality of the boycott is irrelivent. They could be boycotting anything and it doesn't change that holding an idea and choosing where to spend your own money, even if bigotous, is NOT just cause to disrupt legal practice. ...outside potential discrimination lawsuits placed on that company of course.

Anonymous

You're right !

Moise

And why would Arizona subsidies the defence of Israeli Zionazis land grabbers?

Anonymous

This is an unacceptable trampling of our constitution, and clearly the AIPAC lobby has too much influence and shouldn't even be allowed in our nation. It is a foreign agent.

Anonymous

Why the fuck do we support Israel? They never do anything for us and killed over 200 sailors when the bombed the independance.

Dr. Timothy Leary

The A.C.L.U. continues to censor my comments here and this guy gets away with dropping the F-bomb !

Anonymous

Truman signed the final treaty that created Israel
from a country that already existed, Palestine, to win the Jewish vote in his presidential election. Without the Jewish vote, he would not have won the election. Israel exists and prospers, breaking international laws by occupying Palestine, because we fund them. We fund them because the Jewish vote is needed for politicians in the USA. Before screaming that I am anti-Jewish, I am not. These are historical facts. Truman’s advisors warned him not to sign the treaty that created Israel, saying we would never again have a normal relationship with an Arab country. As you can see, that proves true.

Elle

Amen.

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