June 7, 2019 — New York
AJC is urging a federal appellate court to affirm a lower court ruling that the Arkansas Times has no grounds in challenging the validity of a two-year old statute barring state government contractors from engaging in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
AJC reiterated its support for the statute, Act 710 of 2017, in an amicus brief filed in the case of Arkansas Times v. Mark Waldrip in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The brief argues that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas correctly denied the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction of the anti-BDS statute. “AJC agrees with the District Court and the State that Act 710 is constitutional,” states the amicus brief.
“In its core application, Act 710 safeguards the State’s legitimate interest in ensuring that it has full and unimpeded access to all goods and services available on the market, including those of Israeli origin, in the fulfillment of government contracts,” states the AJC brief.
The Arkansas Times was denied a contract to publish legal notices because it would not certify that it was not boycotting Israel. The paper, in fact, was not engaged in a boycott, but the Times has asserted that the statute violates the First Amendment by impeding public criticism of Israel. AJC dismissed that specious claim, pointing out that the newspaper “can advocate against the Act,” and can “deliver any viewpoint, content, or message it wishes with respect to the Act, the BDS movement, or Israel,” and still certify that is not boycotting Israel.
The AJC brief notes, “By its own admission, Plaintiff has never boycotted Israel, participated in a boycott of Israel, expressed an intention to boycott, or editorialized in favor of boycotting Israel.”
Moreover, the Arkansas Times case is the first legal challenge to Act 710. “It is notable that two years after passage of the Act, no party engaged in or even contemplating an actual boycott of Israel has come forward to challenge its constitutionality,” AJC states in its brief.
AJC has actively sought to rally elected officials to reject the BDS movement, whose leadership has actively promoted the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. AJC also has supported legislation to ensure that no unit of government is compelled to waste public funds due to a contractor’s decision to limit market access in the fulfillment of government contracts by boycotting Israeli goods or services.
Gregory E. Ostfeld of Greenberg, Traurig, LLP, prepared the amicus brief for AJC.