BDS event at Arizona State University to move forward

A university lecturer and Palestine rights activist will be allowed to speak at Arizona State University next month, after initially being barred due to a state law blacklisting advocates of an Israel boycott.

A court-approved agreement with the university allowing the event with Hatem Bazian to go forward is “a welcome development,” Gadeir Abbas, attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told The Electronic Intifada.

In February, the Muslim Students Association at Arizona State University had invited Bazian, University of California at Berkeley lecturer and chair of American Muslims for Palestine, to speak about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign in support of Palestinian rights during an event on campus in April.

Bazian was asked to sign an agreement that included a clause certifying that he is not engaged with a boycott of Israel.

The agreement, usually a boilerplate legal document outlining the terms of an event, was amended sometime after the passage of Arizona’s anti-BDS law in March 2016.

The law requires the state to blacklist companies and groups from contracts if they boycott Israel. Arizona is one of two dozen states which have adopted anti-BDS measures.

Bazian and American Muslims for Palestine said they could not agree to the clause and would not sign the agreement.

CAIR filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bazian and American Muslims for Palestine earlier this month.

The university will issue a revised agreement “that no longer requires Dr. Bazian and [American Muslims for Palestine] to comply with the Arizona BDS law,” CAIR stated on Friday.

Bazian will speak on 3 April as scheduled.

The university maintains that Bazian was given an outdated version of the contract that included the anti-BDS clause and should not have been required to sign it.

A university spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada that the clause had been removed from speakers contracts as of December 2017. He said university lawyers reviewed the agreement and omitted it from the current form as the state’s anti-BDS law “doesn’t apply to speakers.”

The new agreement, seen by The Electronic Intifada, does not include the “No Boycott of Israel” clause.

Challenging state law

Lawyers say that the state’s anti-BDS law is unconstitutional.

Abbas told The Electronic Intifada that CAIR is “absolutely continuing” to challenge the state’s law.

He added that the court-ordered agreement with the university allowing Bazian to speak at ASU “is a reflection of the strength of our legal position, and we look forward to seeking a declaration that the law, in all of its applications, is unconstitutional.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has already filed its own challenge to the state law, asserting that it violates the First Amendment.

A federal judge in Kansas recently blocked the enforcement of that state’s anti-BDS law over concerns that it violates free speech protections.

Meanwhile, a federal law that would criminalize Israel boycott advocacy is pending in Congress.

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We're expected to believe that this was all just a mistake. Well, mistakes of this kind happen all the time to advocates for Palestinian rights. They don't happen to Israeli propagandists- for the simple reason they're the ones drawing up the terms of the "mistakes". But let's take a moment to consider the university's claim. The contract supplied to Dr. Bazian was outdated as of December, last year. The anti-BDS provision had been struck from the new form. Yet in February the document containing the offending demand was still sitting in a file ready to be distributed "by mistake". Keep in mind, the anti-BDS clause was judged sufficiently problematic that lawyers had been called in for a decision. They told the university to scrap the requirement- doubtless on First Amendment grounds. But when a BDS advocate was asked to speak at ASU, the discarded form was produced and presented to Dr. Bazian as a condition of compliance. He would not be allowed to speak without formally renouncing the cause he had come to espouse and explain.

Someone should ask the university if others received the same contract form during the period following its rejection by their own attorneys. The answer might prove illuminating.

As for the statement attributed to the lawyers, that the state's anti-BDS law doesn't apply to speakers, this begs the question to whom or what in the university's dealings does it apply? Is Arizona State imposing the anti-BDS oath on faculty, or students? Are businesses applying for contracts being presented with this demand? In other words, is the university resisting or collaborating with this unconstitutional law passed at the behest of the apartheid regime in Israel?

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IMO this is a real victory, one reason being that Maricopa County (where ASU is located) probably has the biggest concentration of white racists in the hole of america. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has his biggest fans there, too.

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(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.
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By what right is government attacking BDS but keeping hands off the militarized criminal "boycott" of GAZA.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).