Right to boycott Israel challenged in Georgia, Arkansas courts

Right to boycott Israel challenged in Georgia, Arkansas courts
2 min read
05 March, 2021
Georgia and Arkansas are the latest in a string of US states addressing the right to boycott Israel.
The BDS movement is a peaceful pro-Palestinian initiative calling for boycott of Israel [Getty]
WASHINGTON D.C. (The New Arab) - States across America are being sued by residents who say that preventing their right to boycott Israel is infringing on their first amendment right to free speech.
The latest case is in Georgia, where a woman was denied the opportunity to give a keynote address due to her support for Boycott Divestment Sanctions, an international boycott movement that seeks to challenge Israeli policy toward Palestinians through economic pressure.

The bill was scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, but it has been delayed.
“The right to boycott is inherent in democracy and inherent in history, especially in the south, such as Montgomery bus boycott," says Murtaza Khwaja, legal and policy director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing the plaintiff.

Read also: The holes in Biden's Palestine policy tell a familiar story

"It’s part of American history and the American civil rights movement. In all of states where this has come up, it has been ruled in favour of the plaintiff. We anticipate it to be successful," Khwaja added.
Similarly, last month in Arkansas, the court ruled that prohibiting the boycott violated people’s constitutional right to freedom of expression.
Ted Swedenburg, a professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas, does not see this recent issue over the BDS as anything to be concerned about, as his state does not have many relevant connections to Israel or Palestine.
“I kind of feel like there’s been a national campaign to get states to pass anti-BDS legislation.,” he said. “I think it’s copycat legislation. Arkansas just went along.”
Regardless of how irrelevant these bills appear to be, many civil rights advocates – including some who are against the BDS movement – remain vigilant over any efforts, and potential precedent, to infringe on the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
J Street, which describes itself as a pro-Israel liberal advocacy group, states: “We believe that it is absolutely vital to make clear that individuals, organisations and lawmakers can both oppose the global BDS movement and defend the right of Americans to actively support that or any other boycott movement.”

Brooke Anderson is The New Arab's correspondent in Washington D.C., covering US and international politics, business and culture.

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