The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has confirmed that a federal court in the state of Arizona blocked a bill that sought to require state contractors to certify they will not join boycotts campaigns against Israel. The bill was part of a campaign attempting to discourage and penalize the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States and around the world.
BDS is a non-violent movement launched in 2005 to pressure Israel to end its illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, to respect the human rights of Palestinians under occupation, and to recognize Palestinian refugees’ right to return.
On Thursday a federal court in Phoenix ruled the bill, enacted in March 2016, violates state contractor’s right to free speech under the First Amendment. “A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott,” U.S. District Court Judge Diane Joyce Humetewa argued in her order blocking the law.
The law required that any company that receives contracts from the state or local government in Arizona submit a written certification that it is not currently boycotting Israel and will not do so, undermining the “rights of assembly and association that Americans and Arizonans use ‘to bring about political, social, and economic change.’”
The ACLU, which has challenged similar laws across the country, explained “the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that political boycotts are protected by the First Amendment, and other decisions have established that the government may not require individuals to sign a certification regarding their political expression in order to obtain employment, contracts, or other benefits.”
This March, the ACLU announced its opposition to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a draft bill in the United States Congress targetting the BDS movement.
The bill was introduced in 2017 by a group of Democratic and Republican legislators. Since then, the ACLU has condemned the bill, warning it would infringe upon the free speech of U.S. citizens.