(April 29, 2019 / JNS) A federal judge ruled last week that the Texas law prohibiting government contractors from boycotting Israel is unconstitutional.
“At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person should decide for him or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration and adherence,” said U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman.
“Our political system and cultural life rest upon this ideal,” Pitman said in his opinion.
He added that “the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular [is] to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hands of an intolerant society.”
The judge rejected the state’s motion to dismiss several lawsuits and tentatively halted the state from enforcing the 2017 law.
“The opinion ignored directly binding Supreme Court precedent which ruled the ideologically motivated boycotts are not speech at all,” Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, told JNS. “It distinguished that precedent, which involved a boycott of military recruiters by laws schools, on ground that the court did not use the word ‘boycott’ in its opinion.
“But the law schools described their own conduct as being a boycott, and the Court of Appeals will not likely be convinced by the district judge’s word games,” he added.
The Texas legislature passed legislation a few weeks ago to modify the anti-BDS law that, if enacted, would exempt individuals and smaller companies, specifically those with less than 10 full-time employees or valued under $100,000.