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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Anonymous

Screw your constitutional rights! You are a BIGOT and antisemite. If you want to boycot Israel, why don't you move to Gaza and be with your bretheren? I'm sure they will care about your constitutional rights.

Anonymous

America's system is great but once the U.S. Supreme Court rules it becomes the supreme law of the land. Arizona legislators knew this was an illegal law but enacted it anyway, knowing it was a settled First Amendment issue.

Any law, including the "supreme law of the land" is meaningless without a healthy risk of penalty and enforcement for lawless officials.

Maybe we need tougher penalties and enforcement for government officials that ignore the supreme law of the land?

Why should law abiding citizens, following U.S. Supreme Court rulings, have to tolerate these lawless Arizona officials for years or decades? Why aren't they being criminally prosecuted or removed from office?

Anonymous

The law in effect does not restrict private parties who wish to boycott Israel. It's for companies and buisnesses. Companies that boycott Israel have a clear agenda. Why would the AZ government do business with companies who are clearly prejudice. It leaves too much room for government hired legal representation to discriminate based off ethnicity, religious views, race, or nationality.

Rabbit.Marshall

Opposing crimes against humanity isn't prejudice. Since when can Zionists dictate business policy or tell people who they can buy from? Israel is a black mark on Judaism. Change the meaning of words all you want but theft and ethnic cleansing is what Israel is all about.

Artemus Granger

People who boycott Israel do have a very clear agenda: to put pressure on the apartheid government of Israel to end the occupation and to end the brutal control of every aspect of life in the Palestinian territories. Apologists for Israel's human rights abuses and violations of international law such as yourself can scream anti-semitism all you want. It won't prevent honorable people from fighting for the rights of the oppressed.

Anonymous

As an Arizonian this is infuriating. I do not support the actions of Israel and the products produced by illegal settlements. For the sake of humanity stop the oppression of the Palestinians.

Anonymous

Free Palistine

Rabbit.Marshall

Clearly the interests of a small group of people is considered special so the rest of us have to be discriminated against.
What does it say about Israel and the US when citizens have to be forced not to speak out against evil?

John Jones

Israel invaded and stole the Palestinian's land back in 1948. They are the ones who don't belong there. The wealthy Jewish lobby in this country has its claws in both of our political and is imposing pressure on our politicians to support their illegal claims. Israel is in the wrong here and needs to withdraw from the West Bank.

Anonymous

The British had Interests in Both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Saudi Arabia for the Oil, Israel for a safe way to get it back to England.

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