Judge strikes down anti-BDS law

Part of the strategy of the Israel lobby in the US to suppress the growing criticisms of the Israeli government’s behavior is to get state legislatures to pass laws that punish people for doing so. One approach is to define anti-Semitism so broadly that pretty much anything you say that is critical of Israel would fall under that umbrella. Another is to essentially mandate loyalty oaths to Israel if you want to do any business with state government.

One form that the latter approach takes is that you have to disavow any support fo the BDS movement if you want to engage in any form with a state institution. These laws have been challenged as infringements on the right to free speech and a federal judge in Georgia just struck down such a state law.

Free speech and Palestinian rights advocates on Monday hailed a ruling by a federal judge declaring the unconstitutionality of a Georgia law prohibiting the state from doing business with anyone advocating a boycott of Israel.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen’s 29-page ruling (pdf) addresses a 2016 Georgia law stipulating that “the state shall not enter into a contract with an individual or company… unless the contract includes a written certification that such individual or company is not currently engaged in, and agrees for the duration of the contract not to engage in, a boycott of Israel.”

After plaintiff Abby Martin—an award-winning U.S. journalist and filmmaker critical of Israeli crimes against Palestinians—refused to sign the pro-Israel oath, a planned paid speaking engagement at Georgia Southern University was canceled.

Cohen’s ruling states that Georgia’s law “prohibits inherently expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment, burdens Martin’s right to free speech, and is not narrowly tailored to further a substantial state interest.”

“The requirement… that parties seeking to contract with the state of Georgia sign a certification that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel is also unconstitutional compelled speech,” Cohen wrote, citing as precedent the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Company ruling, a landmark decision protecting the right to boycott. 

Here is Martin speaking about what happened.

The opinion can be read here.


  1. says

    Meanwhile in Canada, Dustbin Trudeau wanted to pass an “BDS is anti-semetic” law but couldn’t because he knew it would stand up to legal challenge. The harassment and employment discrimination continues unabated in Canada. From April 2021:


    Calls for a peaceful boycott of Israeli products is “terrorism”, but Israel’s intentional bombing of children is “a peaceful reponse”? Only to those who are BDS: Biased, Delusional, and Self-serving supporters of war crimes against Palestinians.

  2. boulanger says

    Harper, Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor, wanted to define criticism of Israel as anti-semitic, and therefore a hate crime. So it is not confined to one party or political stripe.

  3. Matt G says

    There are quite a number of free speech advocates who have been strangely quiet about legal efforts against BDS.

  4. TGAP Dad says

    One thing that struck me from this situation is that the law has been in effect, and presumably enforced, for FIVE YEARS. So even the simple act of enacting what is a clearly unconstitutional law has had the intended effect for the last five years. And that assumes that the state doesn’t appeal, and convince the court to let it remain in effect until appeals have been exhausted. It is said that “justice delayed is justice denied.” It appears our justice system has been specifically designed to deny justice, becoming its own contradiction.

  5. lochaber says

    I still don’t quite get how you can actually make boycotting something illegal. Like, are you supposed to periodically purchase set items now?

  6. Holms says

    #5 lochaber
    Obviously they can’t suppress any boycott, because a boycott is simply the absence of buying from a particular source. What they actually want is a ban on openly stating that you are boycotting that source. A blatant ban on free speech.

  7. John Morales says

    Holms, no.

    It’s a requirement to legally declare one is not boycotting as a condition of working on behalf of the state.

    People could still boycott and say so, they just wouldn’t get any work.

    It may be an impediment to free speech due to consequences, but it’s not a ban.

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