This City Provides Hurricane Relief Only To Those Who Support Israel

Violet Powell
October 23, 2017

The city of Dickinson shared a "Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant Application and Agreement" on its website this week. The application is mainly comprised of unremarkable legalities, with one notable exception: a clause stating that the applicant will not take part in a boycott of Israel for the duration of the grant.

"The First Amendment protects Americans" right to boycott, and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression", said ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura. A representative of Dickson explained that the clause was included to comply with a new state law prohibiting Texas agencies from contracting with companies boycotting Israel.

ACLU calls the Dickinson application a violation of free speech rights.

"Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally", the governor said in a statement, reports Independent. The city of Galveston has issued guidelines requiring contractors who bid for neighborhood projects to certify that they're not boycotting Israel, and it even requires contractors providing police uniforms to sign the certification.

The ACLU hasn't sued Dickinson, but they are asking to hear from locals asked to sign the form.

"Like the law we challenged in Kansas, Texas's law clearly violates the First Amendment", Hauss told The Intercept.

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If you're a resident of a small Texas city and in need of hurricane recovery funds, you'll have to certify that you're not boycotting Israel.

Because the Texas law was enacted recently, it is not yet clear how the state or cities will enforce the anti-BDS measure.

Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters told Bustle the city was in the process of "seeking clarification on the [bill's] language from the State", adding the city was compelled to follow the law as it now reads. The teacher, Esther Koontz, did not sign the contract due to her religious beliefs, and was denied funding.

But Dickinson isn't the only city in Texas to begin including such anti-BDS requirements in official contracts. This law professor from Northwestern University helped out on Texas' anti-BDS bill.

Supporters of laws aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement argue that refusing to do business with a country is not protected speech, and that longstanding laws forbidding "support" for foreign state boycotts of Israel apply to the business transaction, not the political motivations.

Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters did not respond to requests for comment.

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