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The university maintains that Bazian was given an outdated version of the contract that included the anti-BDS clause and should not have been required to sign it.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