Texas city requires no Israel boycott for hurricane relief

Texas city requires no Israel boycott for hurricane relief

A Texas town is offering residents relief grants for damage sustained by Hurricane Harvey - but applicants must first promise not to boycott Israel.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it's considering legal action against the city of Dickinson over its Hurricane Harvey fix grant program, which will provide money to people whose homes and businesses in the city were damaged.

But city officials in Dickinson insist that they are bound by a Texas-wide law, introduced in May, that bans public money being spent on anti-Israel causes. But then the application asks the applicant to pledge they won't boycott Israel.

Critics, including the ACLU, are condemning not only the city's requirement but also Texas's anti-protest law-and similiar measures enacted across the USA and under consideration in Congress-as violations of constitutional free speech rights.

"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott, and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression", he said.

"A governmental entity may not enter into a contract with a company for goods or services unless the contract contains a written verification from the company that it: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract", House Bill 89 states.

Months later, Texans are still cleaning up in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and one local municpalitiy has the American Civil Liberties Union crying foul.

Milward was referring to a Texas law, passed earlier this year, that is specifically aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which puts economic and other non-violent pressure on Israeli companies and companies that work with Israel. She stressed the state was only following State law.




But even if not one single resident in Dickinson ends up being denied a relief grant due to a present Israel boycott, Hauss stressed that the requirement is still unconstitutional.

The law, which is similiar to laws in at least a dozen other states, took effect September 1. This law professor from Northwestern University helped out on Texas' anti-BDS bill.

"Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally", said Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a news release.

And, according to Hauss, Texas isn't the only place where similar anti-BDS laws have cropped up.

"Supreme Court precedents going back to the McCarthy era establish that the government can not force people to sign loyalty oaths or other certifications regarding their political beliefs, expression and association in exchange for government benefits". Other cities are also enforcing the law.

"The bottom line is that boycotts are a legitimate form of non-violent protest, and they are protected by the First Amendment".

For example, government contract applications from the cities of Galveston, Austin and San Antonio require a signed statement that the potential contractor is not boycotting.

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