Federal court blocks Arizona law excluding Israel boycotters from contracts


(JTA) — A federal court blocked an Arizona law requiring state contractors to certify that they will not boycott Israel, finding that the law likely violates the contractors’ free speech rights.

“A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott,” District Court Judge Diane Humetewa wrote in Thursday’s order blocking the law.

The judge also said that the law interferes with First Amendment rights, the news site Tuscon.com reported.

Collective action “targeted by the [law] specifically implicates the rights of assembly and association that Americans and Arizonans use ‘to bring about political, social, and economic change,’” Humetewa said.

The law, enacted in March 2016, requires that any company that contracts with state or local government in Arizona submit a written certification that it is not currently boycotting Israel and will not do so. The Arizona law is similar to legislation passed in other states.

Earlier this year, a federal court blocked a comparable Kansas law, which the Kansas Legislature subsequently amended.

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, filed a case challenging the Arizona law on behalf of an attorney, Mikkel Jordahl, and his one-person law office, which contracts with the government to provide legal services to incarcerated individuals. Jordahl has had a state contract to provide legal advice to inmates in Coconino County Jail for 12 years.

“Boycotts are an important way for people to collectively call for social change and this peaceful form of protest has long been protected by the Constitution,” Jordahl said. “No matter where you stand on the issue of Israel and Palestine, it should be clear that we as individuals have a right to engage in peaceful individual boycotts and a right to not spend our money in the way we choose.”

The ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of foreign countries, it said in a statement about the verdict, but the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to bills that infringe on this First Amendment right.

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