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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Dr. Timothy Leary

Don't anybody boycott anything. Mind your own damn business.


Human rights are our business.


...boycott boycotting?

Morris Alpern

I fully support your right to speak out in favor of the veiled anti-semitism that "almost every country in the world" promulgates. (I myself have personally boycotted the state of Arizona because of the anti-immigrant stance they have so long taken.) By endorsing the anti-family, separatist intents and the efforts at Israel's annihilation by the Palestinians you clearly align yourself with terrorism and violence; but it is your right to posture and cheerlead at their continuing efforts to sway the world into fully adopting a solution of Cathaginian Peace vis a vis Israel. In fact, it would be totally in keeping with your views to offer them in a valedictory speech at the funerals of young Israeli's slaughtered by Arabs unwilling to accept the consequences of Wars that they launched. I am sure that would make your chest swell pridefully.

Ron Barth

Oh, hush, Zionazi drama queen.


You are fucking blind, Alpern. Israel is attempting the extermination of the Palestinian people, just like the Nazis tried with them. Your embrace of such hatred and intolerance is unbelievable. The US sucks up to Israel because they think it'll win them brownie points with their god. Here's some news for you: it won't.


When Israelis stop murdering children in the street you can talk about morals. Until then you're just another hypocrite.


After the holocaust of the Jewish people, you would think they would not do the same thing to the Palestinians. They treat the Palestinians like we treat our black people; less than human. One is not anti-semite if they disagree with the heavy-handed policies and international law-breaking that has been going on since '67.

Barry Speer

Your subjective bias is ugly! "Israel's slaughtered by Arabs" Israel kills Arabs at the rate of near One Israeli to 300 Arabs, shall we call that slaughter? Of course you deny. Strange how International offers Peace Observers were told by Israel any non Palestinian found in the Occupied and Palistinian areas will be shot on sight! Israel is doing a slow version of what the Germans did to them. Took decades for me to see through the Israeli propaganda now of course you will say I am a Jew hater. My Jewish friends think otherwise, you're a variation on the SS with the same motive!


So you want the state of Arizona and Arizona taxpayers to subsidize your anti-semitism?

And you're confused why they are opposed to that? So opposed, in fact, that fighting your bigotry was put into law.

If you're baffled by something as simple as the people of Arizona not wanting to support hatred, perhaps it's good you won't be representing people. They need a smarter attorney.


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