(CNSNews.com) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced a lawsuit Monday challenging legislation in Texas which prohibits government agencies from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel.
CAIR’s legal defense fund is supporting a speech therapist whose attempt to renew her contract with a school district in an Austin suburb hit a hurdle when she refused to sign a document affirming she does not boycott Israel.
According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court in the city on Monday, Bahia Amawi, who supports the so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, declined to sign an addendum to contract papers, and was told her contract could not be renewed as a result.
“Ms. Amawi advocates for boycotts of Israel due to Israel’s continuing violations of international law in its treatment of Palestinians,” the suit says. “Specifically, Ms. Amawi boycotts products created in Israel in support of the peaceful Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.’
“As an advocate for Palestinian rights and justice, she cannot in good faith certify or state that she does not boycott Israel, and will not engage in a boycott of Israel.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year signed into law legislation prohibiting state entities from entering into contracts for goods and services unless the entity concerned verifies in writing that it “does not boycott Israel” and “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract.”
The Texas House of Representatives had earlier approved the bill by 131-0, and the Texas Senate by 27-4.
On Monday, Abbott sounded a defiant note on Twitter: “Texas stands with Israel. Period.”
CAIR, which calls itself the nation’s biggest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, claims the BDS movement is “in support of Palestinian human rights.”
Critics view BDS as inherently anti-Semitic, on the grounds that it targets only the Jewish state and none of the other nations around the world embroiled in territorial disputes.
A working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. and 30 other countries in 2016 provides among “contemporary examples” in public life, requiring of Israel “a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
In an address to an “anti-BDS conference” in New York last year, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said, “how tragic is it that, of all countries in the world to condemn for human rights violations, these voices [from college campuses to the U.N.] choose to single out Israel.”
“We should boycott North Korea. We should sanction Iran. We should divest from Syria – not Israel,” she said. “It makes absolutely no sense. And it has no connection to any reasonable definition of justice.”
As governor of South Carolina, Haley in 2015 passed the nation’s first “anti-BDS” law.
At least two dozen U.S. states have now enacted similar laws, and the ACLU is currently warning against any attempt by the U.S. Congress to include legislation entitled the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” into a year-end omnibus spending bill.
That measure also enjoys substantial bipartisan support – in the U.S. Senate, it is sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and has 58 co-sponsors; and in the House, the bill introduced by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) has 292 co-sponsors.
The ACLU argues that the legislation violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The case in Texas also invokes the First Amendment.
The lawsuit document states that the state of Texas “chose to categorically take Israel’s side in this international conflict by adopting” the law signed by Abbott last year.
“Political speech on issues of great national and international importance is central to the purposes of the First Amendment,” it says.
“Speech and advocacy related to the Israel–Palestine conflict is core political speech on a matter of public concern entitled to the highest levels of constitutional protection.”
The lawsuit calls on the court, among other things, to declare the Texas law “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”