After nearly 10 years working as a speech pathologist for the Pflugerville school district, Bahia Amawi was terminated for refusing to sign a new addendum to her annual contract renewal: She was asked to affirm that by signing she agreed to not boycott Israel during the contract’s term. On its face, this is an odd squashing of one’s First Amendment rights, felt more acutely by Amawi, a Palestinian-American with relatives living in the occupied West Bank.
The anti-boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel oath was, according to Snopes, “included in Amawi’s contract papers due to an Israel-specific state law enacted on May 2, 2017, by the Texas State Legislature and signed into law two days later by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. The bill unanimously passed the lower House by a vote of 131-0 and then the Senate by a vote of 25-4.”
Palestinianlegal.org has a thorough background on and a reckoning of the constitutionality of the anti-BDS laws. Most pointedly, 26 states have some form of provision attempting to compel government contractors and others to swear off boycotting Israel. The list of states covers solid Republican territory such as Arkansas and Alabama, while gleeful potheads might be surprised to find Colorado and California among the Israel lovers.
There is an ongoing bipartisan attempt from Washington to pass an “Israel Anti-Boycott Act.” As the government languishes in shutdown mode, federal workers are furloughed or working without pay. Meanwhile, senators –– far from busting their collective hump to reopen the country – are focused on S.B.1. This is a Marco Rubio-sponsored effort to take pro-Israel protections national.
While this is sure to delight the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the average person might prefer TSA agents receive a paycheck next Friday.
Why on Earth does the state of Texas dictate Middle Eastern politics to its contractors? It’s there on every contract signed with any state government entity, with Abbott claiming, “Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies.” This is a non-sequitur but more importantly a flagrant thumbed nose to the First Amendment. Recently, the ACLU filed suit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, among others, citing the evident unconstitutionality of the law, “This case is not about the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” the lawsuit states. “This case is only about whether a government entity can dictate the political viewpoint of the contractors, including sole proprietors, with whom it does business.”
What is clear is that Texas, often first in the nation in self-embarrassment, is not alone in the bizarre pursuit of its citizens’ First Amendment rights in the name of appeasing a foreign nation with an appalling human rights record. At the time of this writing, the Fort Worth Weekly awaits Texas’ response to our Freedom of Information request. Our questions attempt to shed light on the state’s motivations for the pro-Israel legislation.