TX City Requires That Aid Recipients Do Not Boycott Israel

Posted October 23, 2017

Generally, the requirements outlined in Dickinson's Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant Application and Agreement are predictable: Applicants must agree to follow building codes and get necessary permits, and to use distributed funds exclusively for their agreed-upon project. Section 11 of the application's agreement states: "By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement". But the application then asks applicants to pledge they won't boycott Israel.

The law that Olsen mentions is known as the Anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions law (Anti-BDS). "It's institutionalized in a way that can impact families that are still homeless".

Texas is not the only state to make the government's compassion towards hurricane victims contingent upon their political beliefs.

However, many states, including Texas, have laws on the books that prohibit the state from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

Dickinson applicants have to agree to act as an "independent contractor" in order to receive grant money from the city.

A city in Texas is requiring applicants for Hurricane Harvey rebuilding funds to certify in writing that they will not take part in a boycott of Israel, spurring criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.

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"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott", Segura added, "and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression".

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The ACLU hasn't sued Dickinson, but they are asking to hear from locals asked to sign the form. Residents who are dependent on city funding to rebuild their homes and are anxious about certifying something that isn't true on a government document could decide it's easiest to abstain from boycotting Israeli products, he said.

As of Sep. 2017, 21 states have enacted anti-BDS laws, according to Palestine Legal, an independent organization in the USA that seeks to protect the Palestinian solidarity movement from "efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction".

When he signed the bill into law in May he said that "any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy".

"In short, the Texas law being enforced by the City of Dickinson - as well as other cities throughout Texas, including Galveston, Austin and San Antonio - is leveraging vital government funds to suppress one side of a prominent public debate".