(Los Angeles, CA -- February 13, 2021) -- In 2017, Arkansas joined the majority of U.S. states in passing an anti-BDS law which denies state contracts to companies which engage in discriminatory practices towards Israel. The AR law was challenged (Arkansas v Waldrip), and the challenge dismissed in 2019 when the court found no constitutional problem with the law. However, on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued its opinion ordering the lower court to take up the case again. "StandWithUs is confident that the desire of the state of Arkansas - to refuse to use taxpayer dollars to enter into contracts with companies that discriminate against Israel - will ultimately prevail despite the recent appellate court decision," states Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO StandWithUs. Importantly, while the appellate court found one phrase in the law to be problematic, it indicated no constitutional concerns with the primary purpose of the law, which deals with discriminatory economic boycotts against Israel. In fact, we are heartened that in the first appellate ruling on the merits of anti-BDS laws, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the principle behind the anti-BDS laws that most states in the country have adopted. The ruling means that states have the right to restrict business with companies that boycott Israel. Thus the Court's ruling leaves the Arkansas anti-BDS law almost entirely intact and provides a strong precedent for other such laws across the country Perhaps more significant, critics of anti-BDS laws have long insisted that economic boycotts fall under the category of speech protected under the First Amendment. The appellate court rejected the claim. The sole concern of the appellate court in its ruling was that the Arkansas law included language prohibiting not only economic boycotts but also "other activities” intended to economically harm Israel. Two of the judges understood these words as possibly encompassing freedom of expression, which is protected by the First Amendment. The problematic phrase can easily be amended to alleviate any concerns.
We look forward to the AR-anti BDS law being amended, a process which is already in progress, and restored so that the citizens of Arkansas will be protected from having their tax dollars support final discriminatory practices against the world’s only Jewish state.
StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism.
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.
Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs on 5 continents, including the U.S., Israel, UK, Canada, South Africa and Brazil.
For the last 7 years, SWU has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator (4 stars) and Guidestar (Platinum).