A Texas elementary school speech pathologist lost her job for refusing to sign a pledge to not boycott Israel, The Intercept reports.
Bahia Amawi, a US citizen who received her master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and had worked with the Pflugerville Independent School District since 2009, was told she must sign a pledge not to boycott Israel in order to have her contract renewed. She is now suing, claiming that the move violated her First Amendment rights.
The school district offered to renew her contract but added that she was now required to sign a pledge saying she “does not currently boycott Israel,” that she “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract,” and that will not take any action “that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israeli or in an Israel-controlled territory.”
The Intercept noted that there was no such language pertaining to defending children or even the United States of America, just the economic interests of Israel.
Amawi told The Intercept, “It’s baffling that they can throw this down our throats, and decide to protect another country’s economy versus protecting our constitutional rights.”
The requirement came after the Texas State legislature passed a law banning contractors from supporting boycotts of Israel. Texas Governor Greg Abbott bragged that the law meant “any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy.”
“The bill’s language is so sweeping that some victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Southwest Texas in late 2017, were told that they could only receive state disaster relief if they first signed a pledge never to boycott Israel,” The Intercept reported. “That demand was deeply confusing to those hurricane victims in desperate need of help but who could not understand what their views of Israel and Palestine had to do with their ability to receive assistance from their state government.”
Amawi defends refusing to sign pledge:
Amawi told The Intercept she could not sign the pledge.
“Absolutely not. I couldn’t in good conscience do that,” she said. “If I did, I would not only be betraying Palestinians suffering under an occupation that I believe is unjust and thus become complicit in their repression, but I’d also be betraying my fellow Americans by enabling violations of our constitutional rights to free speech and to protest peacefully.”
Majority of Americans barred from supporting boycott of Israel: Texas just one of 26 to enact a law banning contractors from supporting a boycott of Israel. The most populated states in the country like California and New York all have similar laws and 13 states have similar legislation pending.
“The vast majority of American citizens are therefore now officially barred from supporting a boycott of Israel without incurring some form of sanction or limitation imposed by their state,” The Intercept reported. “And the relatively few Americans who are still free to form views on this hotly contested political debate without being officially punished are in danger of losing that freedom as more and more states are poised to enact similar censorship schemes.”
Democratic lawmakers have considered passing a similar bill in Congress. The ACLU has denounced the legislation, saying “its intent and the intent of the underlying state laws it purports to uphold are contrary to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment guarantee of freedoms of speech and association.”