(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/1/2021) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), today announced the filing of a lawsuit against the city of Houston and the Texas attorney general on behalf of a business that was unable to renew its contract with the city because it contains an anti- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) clause.
CAIR filled the suit on behalf of A & R Engineering and Testing, Inc., an engineering firm, the owner of which is of Palestinian heritage, that was asked by Houston to sign the anti-BDS clause in its contract. The owner of the company has done more than two million dollars of business with Houston over the last 20 years.
CAIR’s memorandum in support of a motion for a temporary restraining order states in part:
“Plaintiff A & R engages in protected First Amendment activity when it makes economic decisions in support of peaceful efforts to impose economic pressure on Israel, with the goal of making Israel recognize Palestinians’ dignity and human rights. The Texas requirement that state contracts must include a ‘No Boycott of Israel’ clause, as enforced by the Texas Attorney General and implemented by the City of Houston, eviscerates A & R’s right to engage in protected speech and expressive conduct. As such, the Anti-BDS law is likely to be struck as unconstitutional.”
The Texas law requiring a pledge of support for Israel (Section 808.001 of the Texas Government Code) is one of many state laws nationwide designed to block the growing BDS movement in the United States and worldwide in defense of Palestinian human rights.
In 2019, CAIR won landmark victory in a suit over the first version of the Texas law on behalf of Bahia Amawi, the Texas speech language pathologist who lost her job because she refused to sign a “No Boycott of Israel” clause. That victory caused the state legislature to enact the new law.
Earlier this year, the Georgia chapter of CAIR, CAIR Legal Defense Fund and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) welcomed a “major victory” in their lawsuit against Georgia’s Israel boycott law after a federal district court ruled that the State of Georgia’s 2016 law punishing boycotts of Israel is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
Similar anti-BDS measures have been enacted in more than 20 other states as part of an effort to block the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Modeled after the global South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS movement’s stated goal is to pressure the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinian territory.
CAIR, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other civil rights organizations have filed free speech lawsuits against anti-BDS laws in Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, and Texas, where CAIR won a landmark legal victory in 2019.
The federal court in Texas held that the state’s anti-boycott law “threatens to suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate” on Israel and Palestine “through coercion rather than persuasion.” The Court concluded: “This the First Amendment does not allow.”
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, based in Washington, D.C., is a public interest legal organization that has litigated on behalf of political organizations and activists across the country to protect and defend First Amendment rights. For more information go to www.JusticeOnline.org.
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
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