The Israel lobby is seeking loyalty oaths in America


I have written before about how the Israel lobby, alarmed by the rapid rise in support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and the declining support for Israel especially among young people and Democrats, has moved to pressure state legislatures to pass laws that punish people for any involvement in such speech and activities. Glenn Greenwald describes the case of Bahia Amawi, a children’s speech pathologist, who was denied employment in a public school district in Texas because a law in that state now contains a loyalty oath – not to the US but to Israel – that prevents the employment of anyone who takes any action that inflicts economic harm on Israel, such as supporting a boycott or even merely making a decision, as a private consumer, to not buy products made by companies in the Occupied Territories. She refused to sign the loyalty oath.

This required certification about Israel was the only one in the contract sent to Amawi that pertained to political opinions and activism. There were no similar clauses relating to children (such as a vow not to advocate for pedophiles or child abusers), nor were there any required political oaths that pertained to the country of which she is a citizen and where she lives and works: the United States.

In order to obtain contracts in Texas, then, a citizen is free to denounce and work against the United States, to advocate for causes that directly harm American children, and even to support a boycott of particular U.S. states, such as was done in 2017 to North Carolina in protest of its anti-LGBT law. In order to continue to work, Amawi would be perfectly free to engage in any political activism against her own country, participate in an economic boycott of any state or city within the U.S., or work against the policies of any other government in the world — except Israel.

That’s one extraordinary aspect of this story: The sole political affirmation Texans like Amawi are required to sign in order to work with the school district’s children is one designed to protect not the United States or the children of Texas, but the economic interests of Israel. As Amawi put it to The Intercept: “It’s baffling that they can throw this down our throats, and decide to protect another country’s economy versus protecting our constitutional rights.”

Amawi concluded that she could not truthfully or in good faith sign the oath because, in conjunction with her family, she has made the household decision to refrain from purchasing goods from Israeli companies in support of the global boycott to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Imagine if, instead of being forced by the state to vow never to boycott Israel as a condition for continuing to work as a speech pathologist, Amawi were instead forced to pledge that she will never advocate for LGBT equality, or never will engage in activism in support of or opposition to gun rights or abortion restrictions (by joining the NRA or Planned Parenthood), or never subscribe to Vox or the Daily Caller, or will never participate in a boycott of Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, or Russia due to vehement disagreement with those governments’ policies.

The tyrannical free speech denial would be self-evident and, in many of those comparable cases, the trans-ideological uproar would be instantaneous. As Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, warned: “[T]his template could be re-purposed to bar contracts with individuals or groups affiliated with or supportive of any political cause or organization — from the political Left or Right — that the majority in a legislature or the occupant of a governor’s office deemed undesirable.”

The [Texas] bill’s language is so sweeping that some victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Southwest Texas in late 2017, were told that they could only receive state disaster relief if they first signed a pledge never to boycott Israel. That demand was deeply confusing to those hurricane victims in desperate need of help but who could not understand what their views of Israel and Palestine had to do with their ability to receive assistance from their state government.

So [New York governor Andrew] Cuomo mandated that his own state employees boycott two other states within his own country, a boycott that by design would harm U.S. businesses, while prohibiting New York’s private citizens from supporting a similar boycott of a foreign nation upon pain of being barred from receiving contracts from the state of New York. That such a priority scheme is so pervasive — whereby boycotts aimed at U.S. businesses are permitted or even encouraged but boycotts aimed at Israeli businesses are outlawed — speaks volumes about the state of U.S. politics and free expression: none of it good.

This case has spawned a lawsuit in a federal court challenging the law on First Amendment grounds and asking that it be declared unconstitutional.

Greenwald states that 26 states have passed such laws and another 13 are considering doing so and it is not just in Republican-controlled states. Loyalty oaths are frequently used by authoritarian governments to stifle dissent. What is extraordinary is for one country to require such an oath on behalf of another country. Such is the very peculiar relationship of Israel and the US of the tail wagging the dog, where Israel benefits from vast amounts of military and other aid from the US and yet feels confident in ordering the country to do its bidding. As I have said before, the servility of top Democratic leaders to the Israel lobby is well established.

This kind of behavior, while most extreme with the US, does not apply only to the US. Israel is also demanding that the German government defund organizations and that German ministers not meet with any people that the Israel government disapproves of. As Jonathan Ofir writes:

Three years ago, in an off-the-record comment to journalists, Israeli Berlin embassy spokeswoman Adi Farjon said that Israel had no interest in full normalization of relations with Germany, and that it was an Israeli interest to maintain German guilt feelings, because without them, Israel would be “just another country as far as they’re concerned.”

“We were all in shock,” said a female journalist present at the briefing, which was also attended by the Israeli ambassador himself, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman.

So that’s what “special relationship’ means. It means that Israel can snub at German politicians, act out of protocol and call for political censorship from top to top, and the Germans need to take it lying down, because there’s the Holocaust.

What the Israeli government sees as a ‘special relationship’ with other nations is them being subservient to their demands.

Comments

  1. ShowMetheData says

    The U.S.A. is a colony of Israel. The elites have accepted this.
    They are will to sacrifice Americans’ rights to comply with a foreign power.

  2. jrkrideau says

    Loyalty oaths are frequently used by authoritarian governments to stifle dissent.
    Interesting, I believe a loyalty oath was require of public employees in the USA back in the McCarthy era but it was to the USA.

  3. says

    jrkrideau, as far as I’m aware a large number of US schools still require a daily oath of loyalty to the flag of the United States and the nation for which it stands.

  4. says

    There are some interesting articles about Beto O’Rourke and his “get to know you” trip to Israel. I’m not even sure what to make of them, because it sounds like some of the parties and states are embedding pro forma statements of support for Israel into their platforms. So I can’t tell if Beto actually supports recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the embassy, or if that was ritual head-knocking. Unfortunately I feel I must assume almost everything I read on the topic is spun this way or that.

    I.e: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/14/what-does-beto-have-against-the-palestinians/

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Given the incentives attached to this “deal”, the ACLU et alia may have difficulties in finding plaintiffs to bring this to court.

    But in time they surely will. The verdicts, of course, will depend on how many Federalist Society members pack the judiciary by then.

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 Tabby Lavalamp
    Re school oaths Ah yes they may. I was in US school one day long ago and I remember every one standing up and, IIRC, reciting a pledge. tThe one I was talking about was a formal one, hand on Bible or Torah and administered by the Dean or Dept Head, probably with witnesses.

    This was in full McCarthy craziness time and one’s job depended on it. I was going to say that a student probably would not be expelled if they did not do the pledge but then thought this is the USA.

    I fell over This BDS Poster Case, Montreal late yesterday afternoon. It looks like it may be starting here but at least the Court seemed sensible.

  7. jrkrideau says

    @ 8 Charly
    At this stage, I am merely curious what rationale will be used to declare these oaths of loyalty to another state constitutional.

    What do you mean “another state”?

    The USA appears to be part of Israel judging by the behaviour of most US politicians.

  8. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Unfortunately, I can see them making some sort of argument about BDS being contrary to a legitimate government goal of maintaining good standing with a foreign ally or some such.

    I think that this should be declared as an attempt to coerce persons into holding certain political views, which is forbidden by the first amendment.

    I also think that it would be a clear violation of the right to protest too.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    I posted this elsewhere in error. It belongs here:
    Here’s what I don’t get: anti-Semites (REAL anti-Semites, that is, rather than what get called anti-Semites nowadays, i.e. anyone with a legitimate disagreement with the actions of the government of Israel, who among other things have weaponised the charge of anti-Semitism) find it necessary to make shit up. “Da Jooz are controlling der wurld!” they bawl, and when asked for evidence start quoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or even worse, David Icke. They start holding up George Soros as some kind of uniquely powerful economy-manipulator or putting (((brackets))) round things to indicate their edgelord status as a sayer of the unsayable.

    And it’s ALL bullshit.

    Meanwhile, in the really real world Da Jooz – or rather, and not racistly, the subset of Da Jooz who are
    (a) massively right wing and
    (b) in a position of power and influence in or on behalf of the government of Israel
    are doing stuff like this – stuff you literally could not make up. Stuff so abhorrent other Jews are lining up to condemn it. And yet this stuff flies under the radar, mostly (in attack helicopters paid for by the US taxpayer… well done guys).

  10. DachsieLady says

    Thank you for this helpful article and discussion.

    I am just a person who would like to start a completely neutral group in Texas who wants our Texas laws to be constitutional and wants our voting procedures to be honest and transparent and completely verifiable. I do not belong to any political party and hate all the Left/Right, Democrat/Republican rhetoric. I am a “conservative” who believes the USA is a country worth saving because it has been so good to so many of its citizens and our properly working constitutional republic is good for the whole world. I guess I am an old school patriot.

    I do not want anything to do with money and corporations of any kind. I just want to EXPOSE the NAMES of the people TRAITORS locally.

    I think it is good for the citizens of the USA to pledge allegiance to the their own country. I do not believe is dual citizenship and dual loyalties. One should only fight in JUST WARS for one’s own country.

    The neocons have infested our country and state legislatures like a metastatic cancer and the “liberals” have turned insane. Media is non-existent in the USA and we the people have no objective information as to what is actually going on.

    When I first learned of the BDS I looked up what BDS letter stood for on Google. Google would only provide me one hit and it said BDS stood for…
    “Let us be clear: BDS is only about bald-faced lies, deception and slander.”

    I would like to know of the names of the Israeli Lobby groups influencing the Texas legislators to vote for this blatantly and ridiculously unconstitutional law. The “Israeli Lobby” has managed to bust up the Right and bust up the Left in Texas politics and that is why there is no entity exposing the names of our disgusting, purchased state representatives and state senators and governor.

    I do not think the ACLU should be the entity fighting against these Anti-BDS atrocity laws. There must be a truly non-bought off group to fight for the upholding of our constitution. I want the NAMES of people and the NAMES of the local Israeli Lobby groups in Texas. I have a feeling that these groups have no neutrality and no loyalty to the United States of America.

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