FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Little Rock, AR) -- -- A federal court in Arkansas upheld the constitutionality of statewide anti-BDS legislation on January 23, 2019, striking a blow to BDS activists and constitutional challenges that such laws violate the First Amendment right of free expression.
Arkansas Times, LP, filed a motion for injunctive relief challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas Act 710, a state statute requiring that companies doing business with the state must first certify that they are not boycotting Israel. The court denied Arkansas Times, LP’s motion for a preliminary injunction, stating that “[t]he Times is unlikely to prevail on the merits of its First Amendment claims because it has not demonstrated that a boycott of Israel, as defined by Act 710, is protected by the First Amendment.”
Arkansas is hardly alone in anti-BDS legislation. In fact, 26 states have passed some form of anti-BDS legislation. The court also cites similar federal law “authorizing the “President [to] issue regulations prohibiting any United States person. . . from . . . support[ing] any boycott fostered or imposed by a foreign country against a [friendly] country.” The court reasoned that a boycott is neither protected speech nor inherently expressive conduct. The court further distinguished between boycotts where one’s constitutional rights are being infringed against by the government and boycotts by those whose rights are not being infringed upon. Here, since participation in any boycott against Israel is purely non-expressive conduct of refusing to deal commercially, First Amendment arguments are not valid.
In his decision, Judge Brian S. Miller wrote that refusing to purchase items isn’t protected speech. He noted that the Arkansas Times wouldn’t be barred from other protected forms of speech, including writing or picketing against Israel policies. “It may even call upon others to boycott Israel, write in support of such boycotts, and engage in picketing and pamphleteering to that effect. This does not mean, however, that its decision to refuse to deal, or to refrain from purchasing certain goods, is protected by the First Amendment.”
“We commend the wisdom of the judge's decision,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said. “As the court recognized, taxpayers need to be protected from being complicit in discrimination, which both undermines state policy and harms its economy.”
StandWithUs (SWU) is a seventeen year-old, international, non-profit Israel education organization. Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel.
Based in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters throughout the U.S., in Israel, the UK, Canada and Brazil.