Alabama Joins Eight Other States In Banning State Contracts For Businesses Who Support The Boycott Of Israeli Products

israel1150px-Flag_of_Alabama.svgThere is a fascinating free speech case developing in Alabama where Gov. Robert Bentley approved a law banning firms that boycott Israel from doing business with Alabama state and local governments. It is a measure pushed hard by pro-Israel activists and is likely to replicated around the country. However, SB81, sponsored by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr, raises core free speech and associational rights. What is ironic is that it is a Republican measure that would seem to deny the type of free speech rights recognized in corporations in cases like Citizens United. If corporations have free speech rights like citizens, could a state bar anyone who was opposed to Israel from state employment or contracts? A court challenge would raise some very difficult and frankly close questions on the right of states to make such a distinction.

The law bars any public entity in the state from entering into a contract with firm participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS. We have been discussing crackdowns on BDS advocates in Europe and other places. Despite such pressures, universities, international organizations, and unions have been joining the BDS movement.

Pro-Israel group insist that the BDS unfairly targets Israel, ignores Palestinian violence, and constitutes anti-Semitism. Josh Block of the Israel Project celebrated the passage of the Alabama law and insisted that “at its core, the effort to single out Israel is anti-Semitism, plain and simple.”

Alabama joins eight other states which have formally cut ties with BDS participants. Those states are Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina and Iowa.

As many know on this blog, I tend to follow a bright-line rule approach to free speech. I think it is a dangerous thing for governments to regulate or penalize exercises of free speech. Whatever the merits of the BDS controversy, it is clearly a matter of free speech and differing political and social viewpoints. Yet, as discussed below, there are some compelling arguments that can be made on both sides.

The question is whether a company will challenge the law. It could create an important test of free speech for corporations. Ironically, these are largely GOP states that are curtailing the notion that corporations have a free speech protection on such questions. Notably, this is punishing a company for a view that is held outside of the state contract. Yet, in favor of the state, it could be argued that a state contractor who adheres to the BDS would be using state funds in a discriminatory fashion since the company would not be using Israeli materials or subcontractors or suppliers. Thus, Alabama would be indirectly engaging in the exclusion of Israeli businesses. Virtually any contractor would have to buy materials or other items from the open market to support a state contract. Thus, Alabama could argue that there is no difference between this and the ban on doing business with South Africa under apartheid, even though BDS advocates use the same analogy to support the ban. Alabama could say that, if the state has a right to identify and bar businesses with discriminatory practices, it can do so even when there is disagreement as to which side is discriminatory or abusive. Thus, BDS advocates say Israel is the discriminatory and abusive party while Israel supporters insist that the ban itself is anti-Semitism. Can a state resolve that question in favor of one side and use its inherent powers to ban state money from direct or indirect support of a discriminatory practice?

Orr is an interesting politicians with a truly impressive and commendable background with work as a Peace Corp volunteer and a stint with Habitat for Humanity.

The best challenge would of course come from a contractor that does not rely on purchase of outside materials or services. Labor and service contracts are the most obvious. However, even a law firm or a medical staff must by office supplies and the like. The state could argue that it wants all contractors to use the available goods from the full market to reduce costs and to avoid discrimination.

What do you think?

25 thoughts on “Alabama Joins Eight Other States In Banning State Contracts For Businesses Who Support The Boycott Of Israeli Products”

  1. Anyone who supports the Republicans, Democrats & Israel are accomplices to murder. They are Nazi War Criminals. Israel, Zionist Jews & American Traitors did 9/11
    The George Washington University Law School should invite Kevin Barrett, Christopher Bollyn, Preston James & Dr. Alan Sabrosky to speak.

  2. @ Karen S
    1, May 16, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    On the other, is the State required to do business with companies that may display antisemitism?

    Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is not in any way shape or form directed at jewish persons so the attempt to tar BDS as antisemitic is a failure.

    BDS is in fact a peaceful attempt at leveraging the collective shame of the international communities gross negligence (77 Israeli UNSC resolution violations) to economically persuade the Israeli government into stopping it’s criminal operations against the Palestinian people.

    The bought and paid for lickspittles infesting the state house in Alabama and in the eight other states have in broad daylight decided to side with the militarized oppressor Israel over the demilitarized and subjugated Palestinians.

    The report below is excerpted from Foreign Policy Journal:

    Rogue State: Israeli Violations of U.N. Security Council Resolutions

    by Jeremy R. Hammond January 27, 2010

    UN Security Council resolutions directly critical of Israel for violations of its Charter obligations and international law

    Following is a list of United Nations Security Council resolutions directly critical of Israel for violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international terrorism, or other violations of international law.

    Res. 57 (Sep. 18, 1948) – Expresses deep shock at the assassination of the U.N. Mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, by Zionist terrorists.

    Res. 89 (Nov. 17, 1950) – Requests that attention be given to the expulsion of “thousands of Palestine Arabs” and calls upon concerned governments to take no further action “involving the transfer of persons across international frontiers or armistice lines”, and notes that Israel announced that it would withdraw to the armistice lines.

    Imagine what an uproar there would have been in the late 1980’s if during the Anti-Apartheid Boycott Movement to free South Africa nine southern US states that had once supported slavery enacted laws in support of the South African Botha government that would ban businesses from supporting the boycott under penalty of losing it’s state contract.

    My how times have changed.

  3. Olly:

    “It’s not as though the state is forcing the companies to actually buy Israeli products; maybe bake them a cake, arrange flowers or hold wedding ceremonies against their conscience, right?”


  4. This is a really interesting article.

    On the one side, I support free speech, whether I agree with it or not. On the other, is the State required to do business with companies that may display antisemitism? Doesn’t that mean the State is taking part?

    My son’s charter school celebrates all kinds of global cultures and traditions. Our class displayed Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, while others covered a range of celebrations, including Ramadan, if I recall correctly. But when it came time to mark Israeli Independence Day (in the long line of global celebrations we decorate for), there was an email sent around that parents wanted to boycott. Some even said they felt the school was run by Jews. So, yes, there is definitely a degree of anti-semitism for at least some people. But when parents single out a particular nation, one of our allies, and keep their kids out of school, our school loses money that day, as funding is based on daily attendance. It is a way to force a minority view on everyone through financial blackmail.

    One has only to casually review this thread for antisemitism – some even blame “Ze Jews” for 911. Ignorant viewpoint, but I support free speech even when it’s hard.

    The question is, at what point does a company’s free speech affect its ability to bid for government contracts? If it’s OK for BDS companies to bid, then the same holds true for any company that opposes gay marriage, supports trophy hunting, or any other controversial, hotly debated topic. So I suppose the legal scholars must decide when an individual’s free speech affects its work with government, in much the same way that government employees are supposed to refrain from uttering inflammatory statements in public.

    This is definitely a good issue for our legal minds to consider from all angles.

    I obviously disagree with the BDS movement. Judaism is the oldest religion still practiced today. Modern day Israel is their Mecca. They were driven from it, and globally persecuted for centuries in the Jewish diaspora. The Philistines for which the region of Palestine was named by the Romans were wiped out long ago. Palestine was never a country, it was a region that changed hands many times. There are no ethnic Palestinians. Most recently, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. Most “Palestinians” are descended from nomadic Arabs who came for the jobs offered as part of the British Mandate to build Israel, that joined a sparse population of Arabs already there. The Arab population absolutely soared with the advent of the British Mandate. Came for the jobs, then demanded they not fulfill their purpose. (See Prof Turley’s posts on hypocrisy in the ME). The Muslim portion of the region of Palestine is the far bigger Jordan. The Jews were given a tiny slice of land now called Israel. But even that is apparently too much. The stated purpose of the Muslim Brotherhood and PA is to destroy the nation of Israel and return it to a Muslim theocracy, where women will be treated as second class citizens like they are everywhere else in the ME, harassed for not wearing proper Islamic garb, and gays will be killed outright. And poetry! Forget poetry, satirical cartoons about government or Mohammed. What person of Western values would support returning Israel to a Muslim extremist theocracy, which is what the PA want? How do you negotiate with a faction that only wants your death? Geez – Muslims have the entire ME, and they have TWO of their holiest sites. Let Israel be. If the terrorist attacks against Israel would stop, and everyone would just get along, then Palestinians could just go about their day, go to work, get an education, and vote, just like everyone else in Israel.

    Once the Muslim Expansion conquered all of the Middle East, they would never accept a non Muslim country. A Jewish homeland will always enrage its neighbors, until they learn tolerance. Interestingly, many Muslims already buy Jewish goods, once the label is changed to “made in Cyprus” or some other fallacy.

    Muslim Palestinian Arabs have Jordan. Let the Jews have their homeland, to which they have been tied for many thousands upon thousands of years, before Islam was even a glimmer of an idea in Mecca.

    Even though I passionately disagree with BDS, (obviously, since I support equal rights for women, and Israel is the only country that offers such in the ME), free speech is a separate issue.

    I am so curious what the courts decide. No matter what, the law needs to apply equally. So either the State has the right to abstain from dealing with countries that are racist, anti-semitic, or oppose gay marriage, or it doesn’t. But the same standard must apply to all.

  5. Probably better reread exactly what the 1st, 9th and 10th amendments express.

  6. 🙂 Of course I have. I just wanted someone to come to the defense of The Little Sisters of the Poor or the Christian bakers. Thank you!

  7. Decent people don’t dislike “Jews”. They dislike apartheid, brutal genocide, the largest open air concentration camp in the world, murder, maiming and displacement of millions of people, theft of land, water, petroleum, and other valuable resources, bribery of the US Congress by foreign interests.

  8. Olly – Have you ever actually read the First Amendment? Calling for or participating in a boycott is fundamentally protected free speech. It is unconstitutional for a government in the United States penalize anyone for that.

  9. I love Alabama. Grew up there. Alabamians do wholeheartedly support Israel. But most wouldn’t want a Jewish neighbor.

  10. I don’t see the First Amendment problem here. These businesses want to boycott Israeli made products AND be able to compete for public contracts. The state says if you want to compete then you cannot be a part of the BDS movement. It’s not as though the state is forcing the companies to actually buy Israeli products; maybe bake them a cake, arrange flowers or hold wedding ceremonies against their conscience, right?

  11. “States Rights”. StatesRights!
    How about a state’s power to do something?
    Under our Constitution people have rights and states have powers.
    That “StatesRights!” thing came in when the federal government intervened when the Klan was lynching people. That was long before Loretta Lynch.

  12. According to U.S. and International Law all the U.S. / Israeli invasions are Wars of Aggression, War Crimes
    Denouncing Israel’s War Crimes is not anti-Semitism.
    Anyone who supports the Republicans, Democrats & Israel are accomplices to murder.
    They are Nazi War Criminals.
    Israel, Zionist Jews & American Traitors did 9/11
    Israel did 911, by Rense Christopher Bollyn, there is all proof you need.

  13. Without discussing the merits of the law, there is absolutely no irony involved. The action has been motivated by religious faith. Seeing it as “ironic” is just a typical example of modern American Liberal thought in the professor having no ability to understand or empathise with religious Protestants. You know, the folks who founded, nurtured and defended the American Republic.

  14. Israeli by it’s constitution is a religious state – it’s government and citizens must always have a majority of one religion, Judaism –

    The US needs to back off entirely from supporting ANY religious state.

    The $4.7Billion US tax payer dollars that go to this Apartheid State which is used to occupy a people, build settlements on occupied lands and cause these people hardship and bombing them needs to end.

    Any American Citizen wishing to go to Israel and defend that state is free to go, but our tax dollars should not support this immoral and religious state.

    If the US breaks up support for Israel will be one of the main reasons why.

  15. If states can ban contracts with a business that boycotts Israel then states can also ban contracts with anyone who does business with Israel.

  16. if you boycott Israel you should be boycotting Saudi Arabia and the rest of the theocrats in the ME. Those who support this boycotts won’t do that because they are really antisemitic I normally find myself at odds with the state of Alabama but in this case I tend to agree.

    Allegedly pro Palestinian activists have had a field day shutting up people and engaging in antisemitism with absolutely no downside. They take the position that anything and everything the allegedly pro Palestinian groups do is AOK with them, no matter what it is. They want to destroy Israel not just get it to change its policies relating to settlement, a policy with which I disagree.

    If these groups were proPalestinian as they alleged they would work to lift Palestinians from Poverty and help them better their lives but they don’t. The Muslim countries give them money for arms but not economic development and their own leaders don’t build houses they build tunnels into Israel to transpose terrorists.

  17. It just goes to show that ideological perspectives can argue any point. Freedom of this and freedom of that can be put aside for the particular ideology. One is not predicated on the other.

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