Houston-Area Residents Told To Certify That They Do Not Support Boycotting Israel As Pre-Condition For Hurricane Relief

Texasisrael1We recently discussed the free speech and associational implications of a Kansas teacher barred from a job due to her church’s support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Now there is a story out of Dickinson, Texas where residents were told that they had to guarantee that they do not support boycotts of Israel as a pre-condition of hurricane relief.  Again, this is nothing to do with the merits of the BDS controversy or Israel.  The question is the constitutionality of the federal or state government demanding such commitments from citizens to secure employment or relief.

 

Dickinson is 30 miles southeast of Houston and was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. Some 7,000 homes and 88 businesses, according to local police reports, have been heavily damaged.  Many residents resent being asked to make a commitment on a political question as a condition to their receiving badly needed aid.  On the three-page application for grant money, residents found this condition:

A snapshot of the relevant boycott section of the application is shown.

Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters admits that people are irate and now says that, when the city’s attorney proposed adding the clause, she thought, “God, this kind of feels like it’s infringing on free speech.”  However, she says that she understood that they did not have a choice but to add the clause.  This appears due to the Texas state law passed earlier this year that prohibits state agencies from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.  It seems obvious that a competent lawyer could adopt an interpretation that would exclude the clause entirely or at least with regard to hurricane relief.  The problem is due to the decision to fashion relief recipients as “independent contractors.”

I can understand the state’s interest in how state supplies are purchased in the fulfillment of state contracts.  My preference would be to reaffirm that any state supplies or sub-contracts go to the lowest bidders with no discrimination as to potential suppliers on any other basis than price and performance. Period.  If someone holds religious or philosophical opposition to any country or group, the public should not have to subsidize such views in paying a high cost for supplies or services.  Likewise, the laws should exclude service contractors like teachers as well as recipients for aid.  They should make clear that the laws are not meant to exclude people based on their personal religious or political views in their private lives.  Instead, some of these laws or clauses are written in the most sweeping language.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging these state laws generally as an infringement on First Amendment rights.  There are a dozen states with such laws and Congress is now considering a law that would make it a felony for Americans to boycott Israel.  Such laws cut deeply into free speech protections.  While Texas Gov. Grey Abbott has said that “Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies,” the issue is whether he and the state can demand that citizens adopt their policy views or face disenfranchisement from employment, contracts, and aid.  Changing “Don’t Mess With Texas” to “Don’t Mess With Israel” is unlikely to change many minds and is more likely to push many toward the BDS movement.

As should not surprise anyone given my past stated views of free speech, I oppose such laws as current drafted.  For those of us concerned over these laws, it is not about being anti-Israel but pro-free speech.  We would oppose similar efforts to punish those doing business with Israel or other such laws. Likewise, a state could bar teachers who belong to organizations or churches that support a boycott of the NFL as demanded by President Trump.

As I noted earlier, this controversy raises obvious comparisons to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Claiborne Hardware Co.458 U.S. 886 (1982), where the Supreme Court unanimously ruled (8-0 without the participation of Thurgood Marshall, who would undoubtedly have voted with the majority) for the NAACP against states cracking down on boycotts of white business.  The Court ruled that the authority over economic regulations does not curtail political speech in such cases:

Speech itself also was used to further the aims of the boycott. Nonparticipants repeatedly were urged to join the common cause, both through public address and through personal solicitation. These elements of the boycott involve speech in its most direct form. In addition, names of boycott violators were read aloud at meetings at the First Baptist Church and published in a local black newspaper. Petitioners admittedly sought to persuade others to join the boycott through social pressure and the “threat” of social ostracism. Speech does not lose its protected character, however, simply because it may embarrass others or coerce them into action.

Advocates of such laws are following a dangerous path in seeking to punish those with opposing views.  Those in a majority today can find themselves in a minority tomorrow.  There are many good-faith reasons to oppose the BDS movement as well as reasons to support it.  I do not support the BDS movement but I respect people who hold opposing views.  We do not need the government to interject itself and state power into the debate.  Punishing those who support the BDS movement will only fuel the anti-Israeli sentiments and undermine the credibility of arguments being made on the merits against such boycotts.

What do you think?

69 thoughts on “Houston-Area Residents Told To Certify That They Do Not Support Boycotting Israel As Pre-Condition For Hurricane Relief

  1. This clause also violates freedom of religion. The origin of loyalty oaths to Israel is both secular and religious. One secular reason is blackmail of public officials due to surveillance of citizens being sent (illegally) by the NSA to Israel. (If you do not believe this you can read about it in the works of James Bamford who has documented that this is occurring.)

    Another reason for supporting Israel is a religious test. Many fundamentalist and evangelical christians have an “Israel first” policy. They believe that the forming of the state of Israel is in the Bible and is necessary for christians to have Armageddon. (Other christians question how Jesus, whom they believe did not council war and killing, is being used to support killing on behalf of Israel, and other nations.)

    The largest group of Americans supporting war on behalf of Israel are these groups of christians. So this seems to me both an abrogation of free speech and freedom of religion.

    Texas is such a strange place because people here believe they are free or have the right to be free. But being free is only available if one conforms to majoritarian ideas. That does not seem to be a commitment to freedom. It is the opposite. It’s simply a bowing to majoritarian rule, something I wish Texans and other people in the United States would quite supporting and instead, support our actual Constitution!

    • Rachel Corrie was a student at Evergreen State College held together with psychotropics. For whatever reason, her parents or some cruddy NGO were willing to sponsor a trip to the Gaza Strip, a place in which she had no business being. She got herself killed trying to play human shield in front of a bulldozer, not a terribly prudent thing to do. There was nothing to emulate about this woman. She was an emotionally fragile individual devoted to a bad cause.

  2. It seems like the municipality in question needs to hire a better corporation counsel. Someone applying for relief is not a government contractor. (Though I would not put it past the statlegislature to have enacted a law with language imprecise enough to promote this outcome. Amazing how inept legislatures can be in spite of the number of lawyers working in them).

    What gets you about these laws are all the things the legislature neglects while passing them.

  3. Come on, how are they to enforce this? So hurricane relief money is being dished out and short of putting their children up as collateral, everyone will sign whatever is put in front of them.

  4. So what’s more abusive, people who lie about qualifying just to get on the dole or people who might actually need the help but privately hold that Israel has oppressive polices that they don’t care to subsidize?
    Seems like we’ll take the cheaters over the politically active.
    Hmm.

      • TurleysSpamFilterStinks

        You need to put a question mark after that. Israel is an apartheid nation where Palestinians are being ‘waited out’, just like the indigenous peoples of NA and SA were ‘waited out’ by the invading Europeans. Eventually they might get to open some casinos, who knows. But, for now, they can’t drill for water as deep as an Israeli, must produce documentation of ownership even if they have lived on a farm for dozens of generations, etc. Israel is just like the Wild West, holier than thou, armed to the teeth, and exacting ten lives for every one. You can either call it right or wrong but it is exactly what it is, the taking of land from the locals. This is human nature, has gone on for thousands of years. Israel was first created this way, by conquest and is being done again. The excuses of why are the crimes.

  5. BDS is limited to boycotting products produced in the occupied territories. Few people know of any such products other than perhaps Sodastream. The clause in the Texas agreement and passed by 12 state legislatures is so offensive that it has caused decent people around the country to boycott all service providers and product vendors they suspect of supporting the type of ethnic cleansing, racism, and religious discrimination occurring in Israel. Those vendors are easy to identify.

    • BDS is limited to boycotting products produced in the occupied territories.

      Rubbish.

      I’m sure the workers at Sodastream benefit from the efforts of the world’s posturing twits.

  6. Turley said, “If someone holds religious or philosophical opposition to any country or group, the public should not have to subsidize such views in paying a high cost for supplies or services.”

    Supposing that the above sentence alludes to the possible consequences of the State of Texas boycotting or divesting itself from Israel [since Texas cannot sanction Israel]; namely, the State of Texas might pay higher costs for goods and services from businesses to which the State of Texas awards contracts; and that those higher costs would be passed along to the taxpayers of Texas, how would that result in the citizens of Texas subsidizing the views of ” . . . someone [who] holds religious or philosophical opposition to any country or group . . .”??? Because the State of Texas would have already knuckled under to the demands from the BDS movement–ex hypothesi.

    Given that the State of Texas has not yet knuckled under to the demands of the BDS movement, how else might the awarding of contracts to businesses who support the BDS movement result in ” . . . the public . . . paying a high cost for supplies or services . . . ” provided to the State of Texas???

    Well, if businesses that support the BDS movement refused to bid on contracts with the State of Texas, then the State of Texas might pay a higher cost for goods and services from businesses that do not support the BDS movement and were awarded contracts with the State of Texas. Whence, prohibiting businesses that support the BDS movement from being awarded contracts with the State of Texas might undermine the rationale that ” . . . the public should not have to subsidize such views [the BDS movement] in paying a high cost for supplies or services.”

    Perhaps the rational basis for this particular law in Texas is not an economic rationale.

  7. To work for the State of Arizona I used to have to sign an oath that I would not foment revolution against this country or be a member of the Communist Party. As I used to tell them if I was going to foment revolution or join/be a member of the Communist Party, do you think I would tell you? I would just lie my a** off and sign away.

    And I am sure there are people who support BDS who have decided to sign on the dotted line and keep their mouth shut until the money is spent.

    • Indeed, but I would like to know how many fire-breathers there are with positions like Ralph. They will be the ones at the state level, who get their pockets lined to push BS laws like this on the ignorant and unsuspecting. I guess nobody is allowed to be outraged about the loss of American seamen on the USS Liberty, either?

  8. So the Texas state law is essentially
    Boycotting companies that have boycotted a foreign country Israel? Really?
    I knew Israel embedded with DC was Giagantic, but I would have never realized it was going into our State laws.
    How would the lay person, or business know if their mutual fund is boycotting Israel?
    Is it ok to LIE when you sign the form, to get Aid, knowing that Israel lied about their Nuclear arsenal?
    Fascinating. And chilling at the same time.

    • I knew Israel embedded with DC was Giagantic, but I would have never realized it was going into our State laws.

      No, you didn’t know that. You fancy that because you despise and resent Jews and cannot make sense of the viewpoint of someone who does not.

      • I’m part Ashkenazi Jew.
        Give me a bloody break.
        If you don’t know that Israel is imbedded with DC, then I gather you are a troll working for their disinformation dept.
        Israel is Silicon Valley and the NSA of The World. 🙄

  9. This is not a left or right issue. It is simply a case of state coercion. Whether this can be covered by the Constitution is immaterial, it just is wrong for the state, or any government entity, to exploit the vulnerability of its citizens to get the, to agree to a political position.

    For the record, I am an ardent supporter of Israel but this is an abusive misapplication of law and does more to harm Israel’s position, than help it. Maybe that was the intent all along.

  10. The certification is a simple and clear, and is a fully rationale one. The principle behind the law is that individuals should NOT receive any Federal Funds if they support the enemies of America. Anyone who supports BDS is necessarily anti-America, pro-Islamic terrorist, anti-liberty, anti-freedom, and anti-civilization.

    Free speech is not affected by the law. An individual in Texas or anywhere else in America is free to proclaim how much they hate America, hate Israel, hate freedom, hate liberty, hate civilization, love nazis, love the KKK, love islamonazis, and so on and so forth. Those rights are not affected in the slightest.

    What IS affected is the right to receive free money from the U.S. Government. And this law in no way, shape, or form discriminates on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability, genetic information, military service, or other protected status.

    That Turley and other deceitful Leftists persist in referring to the law as an abridgment of free speech merely demonstrates Leftists’ duplicity and their inherent degeneracy.

    • The “free money” of the government comes from those very citizens, actually, and taxpayers who qualify for relief should receive the same access to funds as anyone else.

      I’m not a fan of religious nutbags arrogantly pretending to know the destinations of souls, but I wouldn’t stop them from receiving funds as Americans. Boycotting Israel or boycotting Erdogan or boycotting the NFL or boycotting Trump University (I heard it’s a tremendous success) should be irrelevant.

  11. One can be for Israel but speak out against the racist and discriminatory policies of the State of Israel. Unfortunately, The Government of Israel has done a masterful job to not allow its’ policies to be questioned as it practices an Apartheid Policy for its’ Arab Population–this is not even noting how it treats the occupation. I just the JT community google Gideon Levy and Amira Haas to get some perspective on this question–Beyond this, there is Texas itself–The idea that somehow he’s denying Hurricane Relief is simply inhumane. Remember also that he’s part of a movement to call for a Constitutional Convention to transform the Constitution that has worked for over 200 years. How can he call himself a conservative and a person of Faith and yet push for such actions?

  12. Of course it,s an infringement on free speech and common decency. But I wonder, how many people in Dickinson, Tx were likely to have had any intention of boycotting Israel in the first place. How would they do that if they wanted to? In any case, if they signed such a pledge it would be unenforceable since it was an illegal requirement and would have been signed under duress. What’s wrong with Texans anyway? Texas skould hzve been allowed to secede.

    • When faced with rebuilding their home or checking the box on the application despite wanting to boycott Israel, nearly everyone will just shine on the city and certify they don’t boycott the country. I opine they could simply claim they decided at the last minute to cease their boycott and after the repairs were made then had a change of heart and returned to their boycott. How’s the state going to prove otherwise?

      • Yep. I’ll support foreigners this week if those enlightened folks will put a roof over my head. Next week. ?????
        Gotta love government. Should have they swear off 80 oz. sodas or something else. Chips, maybe…

      • Many will, but there are still people who would be unwilling to sign a false statement even in order to get aid that they need.

  13. Been warning you folks for a long time… we are the United States of Israel, the tail that wags this dog. Between the soldiers who died in wars in the middle east we waged on behalf of Israel, to mossad being at least aware that 9/11 was happening, if it was not behind it; to Netanyahu having more say before congress than our own president; to Israel undermining every effort to find peace with Iran; to Israel being behind the so-called intelligence behind our Iraq invasion; to Israeli rights trumping our own citizens’ rights here and to the epidemic of anti-free speech laws flaring across the western world seeking to protect Israel from criticism… and not even talking about the billions given Israel while our own citizens do not have water in Flint…
    It’s almost over, by the time we wake up, we are the most exceptional 3rd world country in the globe.

    • One thing that’s faintly amusing about British newspaper stories about the royal family is that about 90% of the people who comment on them despise the royal family. Republicans of all stripes are a minority in Britain, republicans who feel compelled to trash Prince Andrew’s innocuous daughters a smaller minority still, but they’re omnipresent when certain subjects are raised.

      And so it is here. Political and social fantasists who loathe Jews are a tiny minority one never encounters in meatworld, but they appear here regularly. There is very little of value going on between their ears, but we have to tolerate the silage generated therein.

      • sorry, I gave wrong URL – it’s actually ifamericansknew.org

        Alison Weir and her staff have tirlelessly and accuruately docomenting how many US dollars flow to Israel AIPEC'[s influence as well as the horrors wrought as Bibi seeks to expand the territory.

          • Po, I saw Alison here a few years ago. She gave an amazing presentation. The ughly Zionist factions showed up and tried to derail her talk. But she carried on with grace and I thought a wonderful sense of deocrum. The hidious ilk were like hateful ghouls. Alll I could think of his hey, why not STFU and return to the Promised Land where you might be happier being surrounded by your ultra orthadox norms?

            • Thanks, Autumn… I have enjoyed her writings since coming across her.
              Folks who dare speak against zionism in any of its various forms get targeted a lot.

  14. This is another example of the cascading effects of foolish legislation; legislation that is not fully thought-out and the result of blind political pursuits. It is the type of legislation that lowers the credibility even further of elected officials and demonstrates the need for voters and the courts to reign them in.

    Legislatures and some governors are it seems are determined to undermine the liberty of the people.

    Returning to the specific example noted here, I do not completely fault the city attorney in that he has a mandate to incorporate requirements of existing statutory law into these requests for aid, but I agree with our host that there could be some deference. I fail to see how an individual homeowner in their personal capacity can be equated with a business related contractual agreement with the state. Furthermore, while the NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. should cover this state statute, to my knowledge there has not been as of yet a determination by the judiciary that this recent state statute is unconstitutional.

    I fail to see a substantive government interest in enforcing these anti-boycott legislations that is of such great need to compromise speech liberty. Yet I see a trend continuing in this with current legislatures in some states and with governors.

    You have to ask yourself, who’s side these politicians are on. Obviously they are not on the voter’s side by default, but it seems that their priority in this issue is Israel and not the American citizenry.

    • One hobby of state legislators is adding some provision to the penal code ‘for the children’. There was a case in Florida where the legislature enacted a law which prohibited registered sex offenders from living within a certain distance of a school. After it was enacted the sponsor was getting some static about it and did what neither he nor any other legislator had done previously: he got out a map and a compass and discovered there were hardly any places in the state not within that distance of a school.

      For a Republican voter, what galls is that state colleges and universities have been turned into sandboxes for progtrash, and the legislators they elect sleep through it. State aid to localities is laden with compliance costs damaging local autonomy, and they sleep through that. Penalties in the penal code are horribly miscalibrated and sentencing rules rococo, and they sleep through that. Election law and county and municipal law generate a kalaidascope of electoral contests no one can keep track of, and they sleep through that. Local governments carry suboptimal boundaries and suboptimal dimensions, and they sleep through that. The individual market in medical insurance is imploding, and they sleep through that. State labor law second-guesses the decisions of employers in ways it never should (while generating business opportunities for lawyers) and they sleep through that. Local government services are haphazardly and indifferently allocated between the levels thereof, and they sleep through that. But they have ample time for Jenna’s Law making it impossible for a released convict to rent a slum apartment. #priorities.

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