Kansas Sued Over Law Ban­ning Boy­cotts of Is­rael

Trillions - - In this Issue -

Has the United States be­come a colony of Is­rael? It might seem so, given Is­rael’s power over Amer­ica’s fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments.

Any in­di­vid­ual or com­pany want­ing to do busi­ness with the state of Kansas must sign a state­ment cer­ti­fy­ing they are not en­gaged in a boy­cott of Is­rael. The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU) – and just about ev­ery­one else – says this is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

As bizarre and ridicu­lous as it may seem, 24 states now have sim­i­lar statutes on the books and there are ef­forts on the fed­eral level to make boy­cotting Is­rael a felony.

Ac­cord­ing to ACLU at­tor­ney Brian Hauss, the new law, which went into ef­fect on July 1, 2017, “is an un­con­sti­tu­tional at­tempt by the gov­ern­ment to si­lence one side of a pub­lic de­bate by co­erc­ing peo­ple not to ex­press their be­liefs, in­clud­ing through par­tic­i­pa­tion in a po­lit­i­cal boy­cott.” The law specif­i­cally pro­hibits state con­tracts with in­di­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies who refuse to say they will not en­gage in a boy­cott against Is­rael. It even makes it im­pos­si­ble for the state or its agen­cies to hire Kansans who refuse to “en­gage in com­mer­cial re­la­tions with per­sons and en­ti­ties en­gaged in busi­ness with Is­rael and Is­raeli-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ries.”the law, also known as House Bill 2409, is one of many aimed at the Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment. That move­ment, mod­eled after the same BDS ap­proach that even­tu­ally brought down the for­mer apartheid gov­ern­ment of South Africa, en­cour­ages non-vi­o­lent pres­sure on Is­rael for its seizure of in­ter­na­tion­ally – and UN – rec­og­nized Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory and the fail­ure to rec­og­nize Arab Pales­tini­ans as hav­ing equal rights with Is­raelis within the same borders. That non-vi­o­lent protest in­cludes Boy­cotting Is­rael and Is­raeli com­pa­nies aligned against the Pales­tini­ans, Di­vest­ing in­vest­ments that in­clude Is­raeli com­pa­nies aligned against the Pales­tini­ans and le­gal Sanc­tions against those Is­raelialigned or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies.

The pro-is­raeli lob­bies in the United States, as well as the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment, con­sider the boy­cott, di­vest­ment and sanc­tion op­tions as a sort of “crime of state” against the gov­ern­ment and val­ues of Is­rael. That is why many dif­fer­ent anti-bds bills have al­ready been passed or are pend­ing across the United States, in­clud­ing one currently mak­ing its way through the United States Con­gress that would make boy­cotting Is­rael a felony. Tril­lions wrote about th­ese bills and the anti-bds move­ment in its ar­ti­cle “WARN­ING: Is­rael Is Killing Amer­i­cans’ Right to Free Speech” (pub­lished in the Septem­ber 2017 is­sue).

There is one fun­da­men­tal prob­lem with any at­tempt to reg­u­late Amer­i­can cit­i­zens’ po­si­tion on the anti-is­rael BDS move­ment. It vi­o­lates the First Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, which guar­an­tees in­di­vid­u­als the right to free speech, since a boy­cott, which amounts to tak­ing a po­si­tion on some­thing, is sim­ply an act of free speech.

The spe­cific case the ACLU is back­ing in­volves Es­ther Koontz, a math teacher and cur­ricu­lum coach in the Wi­chita, Kan., Dual Lan­guage Mag­net School.

Back in July of this year, Koontz’s church, the Men­non­ite Church USA, took a stand on the BDS is­sue. It voted to di­vest it­self of any fi­nan­cial back­ing for Amer­i­can com­pa­nies that profit as a re­sult of Is­rael’s oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries. This would never have be­come an is­sue for Koontz, ex­cept that ear­lier in the 2016-2017 school year she was se­lected to be in the Kansas Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s Math and Sci­ence Part­ner­ships pro­gram. It was an honor for Koontz and an op­por­tu­nity for ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers such as Koontz to guide pub­lic school teach­ers through­out Kansas.

When Koontz came to fill out and sign off the doc­u­ments as­so­ci­ated with the pro­gram, those who had se­lected her re­quired her to sign a state­ment cer­ti­fy­ing that she does not boy­cott Is­rael. Since she stands with her church on this is­sue – and that church is in­volved in a boy­cott of Is­rael – she re­fused to sign the state­ment. For her per­sonal faith and be­liefs, she was blocked from be­ing paid as a con­trac­tor.

In fil­ing the suit, the ACLU re­ferred to what Koontz and her church were do­ing as po­lit­i­cal in nature. It cited the 1982 case of NAACP vs. Clai­borne Hard­ware Co. as a prece­dent. In that case, a group of NAACP (National As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple) ac­tivists and oth­ers came to­gether to boy­cott cer­tain white mer­chants as part of a de­mand for de­seg­re­ga­tion. The white mer­chants, who lost con­sid­er­able busi­ness from the boy­cott, sued to re­cover dam­ages from the NAACP ac­tion.

The case went to the Supreme Court, which, in a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion, ruled that the gov­ern­ment can­not pro­hibit po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated boy­cotts. In the de­ci­sion au­thored by Jus­tice Stevens, it made the fol­low­ing point to those who were seek­ing dam­ages from the boy­cott (from page 458 U.S. 913):

“While States have broad power to reg­u­late eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, we do not find a com­pa­ra­ble right to pro­hibit peace­ful po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity such as that found in the boy­cott in this case. This Court has rec­og­nized that ex­pres­sion on pub­lic is­sues ‘has al­ways rested on the high­est rung of the hi­er­ar­chy of First Amend­ment val­ues.’ Carey v. Brown, 447 U.S. 455, 447 U.S. 467. ‘[S]peech con­cern­ing pub­lic af­fairs is more than self-ex­pres­sion; it is the essence of self-gov­ern­ment.’ Gar­ri­son v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64, 379 U.S. 74-75. There is a ‘pro­found national com­mit­ment’ to the prin­ci­ple that ‘de­bate on pub­lic is­sues should be un­in­hib­ited, ro­bust, and wide-open.’ New York Times Co. v. Sul­li­van, 376 U.S. 254, 376 U.S. 270.”

The cur­rent case, which the ACLU also refers to as a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated boy­cott, ar­gues that the Kansas law vi­o­lates the First Amend­ment be­cause of the fol­low­ing:

• It com­pels spe­cific speech re­gard­ing pro­tected po­lit­i­cal be­liefs, as­so­ci­a­tion and ex­pres­sion.

• It re­stricts gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors from their con­sti­tu­tional rights to po­lit­i­cal ex­pres­sion and as­so­ci­a­tion.

• It dis­crim­i­nates against pro­tected ex­pres­sion based on that ex­pres­sion’s spe­cific con­tent and view­point.

The suit goes on to say that “Be­cause the Act en­gages in speaker-based dis­crim­i­na­tion and bur­dens fun­da­men­tal First Amend­ment rights, it also vi­o­lates the Equal Pro­tec­tion Clause.”

There will be at­tempts to get the law­suit thrown out, of course. As­sum­ing it pro­ceeds and the ACLU and Koontz’s po­si­tion is even­tu­ally sup­ported by the courts, the re­sult­ing de­ci­sion would have a major ef­fect on the en­tire BDS move­ment and re­lated laws across the United States.

Amer­i­cans choose to boy­cott Is­rael be­cause it com­mits hor­rific hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, sup­ports wide­spread crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, steals Amer­i­can tech­nol­ogy, and sys­tem­at­i­cally sub­verts Amer­i­can democ­racy, as can be plainly seen by the state anti-bds laws.

Since its found­ing in 2006, the United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil has re­solved al­most more res­o­lu­tions con­demn­ing Is­rael than on the rest of the world com­bined.

In re­al­ity, Is­rael is one of Amer­ica's great­est en­e­mies. Ev­ery Amer­i­can should cer­tainly boy­cott Is­rael.

Tril­lions will be mon­i­tor­ing this story closely as it con­tin­ues to de­velop.

Photo by Takver, cc

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