September 10, 2019 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is urging the United States Court of Appeals to uphold a Texas law that bars the state from engaging the services of contractors involved in boycotts of Israeli products and services.
In an amicus brief submitted in the case of Bahia Amawi v. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, AJC argues that the anti-BDS law, Texas Government Code Chapter 2270, is constitutional and a lower court’s injunction suspending the law’s implementation should be lifted. The district court found the statute unconstitutional.
“The State has a legitimate interest in safeguarding its commerce with Israel and its access to Israeli-connected goods or services, and its enforcement of that interest does not contravene the First Amendment,” said AJC General Counsel Marc Stern.
The AJC brief dismisses as a “false dilemma” plaintiffs’ assertion that boycotts are constitutionally protected speech.
“Chapter 2270 requires verification of a fact” that State contractors are not participating in a boycott of Israel, states the AJC brief. “It does not compel State contractors to endorse or engage in speech opposing the BDS movement or BDS activities, does not prevent individuals affiliated with State contractors from participating in boycotts in their personal capacities, and does not prevent contractors from expressing their personal views regarding boycotts or associating with others who share their views.”
Moreover, “plaintiffs have identified no contractor and no set of circumstances in which application of the verification requirement would be unconstitutional,” states the AJC brief.
AJC has long supported legislation to ensure that no government unit 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. The BDS movement leadership seeks and has actively promoted the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.
The AJC brief further notes that “the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that the government is not obliged to expend public funds in a manner contrary to its own express interests in deference to a contractor’s preferred use of public resources to a different end, regardless of whether that preference is couched as an exercise of personal or political expression.”
The AJC brief was prepared by Gregory E. Ostfeld of Greenberg Traurig, LLP in Chicago.