By Aaron Kesel
U.S. citizens in the state of Texas are being asked to support Israel if they want Hurricane Harvey relief funds, a move which experts are calling illegal, Houston Press reported.
The city of Dickinson is demanding its citizens sign a loyalty oath to Israel that states they will never seek to boycott the apartheid state for access to the Harvey Relief Fund during the application process to receive money. The city is using a pro-Israel state law to intimidate victims of a tragedy for storm relief by hanging a dangling carrot over their heads but pulling it if one of their citizens doesn’t support a foreign country. Let that sink in real deep.
The state law stems from a pro-Israel law, signed by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, that prohibits the state from entering a contract with any business unless it “does not boycott Israel” or take action “to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel.”
During the time when the law was signed Abbott stated that boycotting Israel was anti-Texas:
As Israel’s No. 1 trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership. Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally.
However, the legal trouble, besides requiring citizens of the U.S. to pledge allegiance to a foreign country, doesn’t end there. The Texas law specifically states that organizations are held to the pro-Israel standard, but nowhere does it state that individual citizens are. Nevertheless, Dickinson is requiring its citizenry to sign a no-boycott pledge if they’re interested in U.S. government grant money. In other words, if you don’t pledge allegiance to a foreign nation you don’t get government aid.
The contract reads: “By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.”
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The ACLU stepped in to declare that the move illegal, stating it is against the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment, comparing the move to McCarthyism.
“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,” ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura said in a statement.
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.
What’s more is that there are similar rules in at least 20 U.S. states that push a ban on corporations participating in a boycott against Israel. The state laws are a widespread response to a global campaign called the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement, (BDS) which exerts economic influence on Israel to force the country to stop building settlements on Palestinian land.
The ACLU further noted that the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that political boycotts are protected free speech for individuals, and governments can’t force them to sign certifications promising not to do it in order to receive public benefits or contracts.