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.