No hurricane aid if you boycott Israel, says Texas city

An official contract requires residents of Dickinson, Texas, to certify they won’t boycott Israel as a condition for receiving aid to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.

A city in Texas is requiring residents to verify that they do not boycott Israel in order to receive aid to rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

Civil liberties defenders are calling the measure a violation of the US Constitution.

The Electronic Intifada has found that several major cities in Texas are also requiring similar verification from people who want to do business with them.

An official form for residents of Dickinson to apply for city aid to rebuild hurricane-damaged homes and businesses requires certification that the applicant “does not boycott Israel” and “will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement.”

The Houston suburb of about 20,000 residents was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey. Ninety percent of the town was flooded and local authorities say that 7,000 homes and almost 100 businesses were seriously damaged.

“The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression,” Andre Segura, Texas legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said.

“Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity.”

The ACLU said the measure appeared to be an effort to enforce a recently passed Texas law that requires all state contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.

When signing that law, Governor Greg Abbott declared, “Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally.”

Major cities require no-boycott pledge

An examination of the websites of about a dozen other hurricane-affected Houston-area municipalities did not turn up similar measures to Dickinson’s.

But guidelines issued in September by the city of Galveston for contractors wanting to bid for neighborhood projects contain an Israel anti-boycott provision. The Galveston police also issued a tender for uniforms that requires bidders to verify they don’t boycott Israel. The cities of Austin and San Antonio have adopted similar provisions.

Texas is one of 21 states to adopt measures ostracizing or attempting to restrict the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

This month, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a teacher in Kansas who is being required to repudiate boycotts of Israel as a condition for taking on a state contract as a trainer.

Free speech hypocrisy

Amid a national furor of the claimed right of Nazis and white supremacists like Richard Spencer to speak on college campuses, establishment media and politicians seldom criticize the growing censorship around Israel.

But journalist Glenn Greenwald commented that the move by Dickinson again demonstrates that “the greatest and most frequent threat to free speech in the West is the attempt to criminalize and outlaw activism against Israel.”

Drawing a contrast with the panic over often dubious claims of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, journalist Max Blumenthal quipped that the Texas municipality’s tying of aid to a recipient’s views on Israel amounts to “the kind of foreign meddling our elites tolerate.”

Currently, the US Congress is considering the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which could impose prison and heavy fines on companies or their personnel accused of abiding by boycotts of Israel called for by international organizations.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act currently has 266 sponsors in the House and 50 in the Senate.

AIPAC priority

Over the summer, the ACLU wrote to senators condemning the bill for violating constitutional free speech rights.

Due to sustained pressure from legal groups and activists, a handful of US lawmakers have pulled their support of the bill.

In August, 100 civil and human rights organizations endorsed a statement urging lawmakers to reject the bill outright.

The powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC has made passing the bill one of its top legislative priorities.

Tags

Comments

picture

Is the armed and violent Israeli boycott of Concentration Camp Gaza also proscribed?
(1) Government has ZERO business interfering in Civilian boycotts.
(2) Boycotts are the most Democratic and PEACEFUL of actions.
(3) Boycotts are FREEDOM of SPEECH.
(4) Boycotts are FREEDOM of ASSOCIATION -- DISassociation.
(5) Boycotts are VOTING with dollars.
(6) Boycotts PEACEFULLY withhold "power/energy" from those with whom one disagrees without engaging in violence.
(7) In "Capitalism", the system we CLAIM to follow, where and with whom you spend your money is ENTIRELY up to YOU.
The Citizens United Supreme Court decision firmly established that the right to spend money is a form of free speech. That means that the right to NOT spend money is also a form of free speech. Organizing a boycott -- an act of NOT spending money -- is then protected free speech in the same way that soliciting campaign funds to spend on promoting a political candidate or partisan viewpoint is free speech.
----------
Everybody should be looking at the BOYCOTTS of North Carolina by the LGBTA-whatevers ........... are Palestinians LESS HUMAN than Homosexuals?! Look at all the corporations and Celebrities dashing to block the decision of the ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES of the People .... Where is their PIOUS OUTRAGE in defense of the PALESTINIAN People who are under MILITARY OCCUPATION?
Collect the names of the "outraged" Corporations and Celebrities and ask them where is their Holy Anger over the plight of the Women and Children of PALESTINE? do even the basest of democrats think that men who don't even understand their own proclivities belong in the same can as their own daughters?
I hope you are ALL OVER the Corporations and People BOYCOTTING North Carolina and other States for being HYPOCRITES as they fail to support BDS.
For that matter ...... where is the LGBATF outrage over treatment of the PALESTINIANS.

picture

Absolutely amazing. And American liberals rage about Russian influence in their country. Are they ever going to take a look at the role of Israel in U.S. politics and media? Honestly, what will it take?

picture

What next for the residents of Dickinson Texas? In order to get assistance will they have to sign a statement saying they are racist "card carrying" members" of the KKK, the Nazi party or AIPAC (current in their dues).

ZIONISM IS RACISM. It certainly is not Judaism.

picture

Jewish Zionists do not care, and have never cared, about anyone who is NOT a Jewish Zionist. These are Americans who are in need, but to Jewish Zionists it doesn't matter. Though implicit in all of this is the suppression of free speech and the repression of dissent, what matters overall is the ascension and preservation of a pathological, white supremacist, racist, fascist, apartheid ideology, namely Zionism (Israel). Whether someone is a Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze, non-Zionist Jew, American citizen, et al to many Zionists they are not even considered human.
Clearly, these are acts of desperation by AIPAC, the ADL, the AJC, ZOA, and so forth. As the climate is slowly changing toward Israel and Zionism by Americans, these organizations are now oozing from the proverbial woodwork to expose themselves for who they actually are and what they actually represent.
Unfortunately, these organizations are co-joined by, probably, the greatest assemblage of cowards in the world today--the U.S. Congress, and state and local American politicians who would do anything to get a vote and preserve their status.
Though I am convinced, and still believe, what George Galloway said a number of years ago, that the Israel Lobby is nothing but a paper tiger, Zionism still represents the greatest threat to democracy in the Western world today.

Add new comment

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.