Skip to main content

US judge strikes down Texas anti-BDS law

Federal judge says law violates country's freedom of speech, which is protected under first amendment
Protester against state anti-boycott measure in Albany, New York (AP/File photo)

A US federal judge has struck down a controversial Texas anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) law, saying it violates freedom of speech under the country’s first amendment of the constitution.

The judge, Robert Pitman, delivered an injunction to strike down Texas’ law late on Thursday, saying in his opinion that it forces “public debate through coercion rather than persuasion”.

The law ran into legal trouble when Bahia Amawi, a speech pathologist, was not allowed to sign a contract extension with Pflugerville independent school district – a public school district near the state’s capital Austin – unless she pledged to not boycott Israel.

Amawi, along with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), sued the state to get the law overturned.

Nick Cave: The Palestinians, not you, are censored, bullied and silenced - by Israel
Read More »

“This is a complete victory of the First Amendment against Texas’s attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine,” said Gadeir Abbas, one of CAIR’s attorneys.

“The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today welcomed this afternoon’s landmark victory in CAIR’s First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of Bahia Amawi,” CAIR said in a statement shortly after the ruling.

“Every single ‘No Boycott of Israel’ clause in every single state contract in Texas has today been stricken as unconstitutional.  The Attorney General of Texas is no longer permitted to include or enforce ‘No Boycott of Israel’ clauses in any state contract,” the statement added.

According to the statement, Amawi was driving when she heard the news.

She pulled over to side of the road and said: “God is great”.

“Arabic-speaking schoolchildren in Texas have been deprived of critical services from Bahia Amawi for almost this entire school year because of this unconstitutional law,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri.

CAIR-Austin’s Executive Director Maira Sheikh said: “Bahia Amawi has been an inspiration to the Muslim community and all advocates for free speech in Texas.”

Texas’s law is known as the Anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions law (Anti-BDS).

Passed and signed into law in May 2017, it was touted by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. "I am proud to have commemorated Israel’s Independence Day by signing into law Anti-BDS legislation in Texas," Abbott said in a news release. 

“As Israel's number one trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership. Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally,” he added.

CAIR’s statement said it is challenging similar laws in the US states Maryland and Arizona.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.