U.S. city links hurricane relief to support for Israel

To get Harvey relief funds, residents of Dickinson must vow not to boycott Israel

TX City Requires That Aid Recipients Do Not Boycott Israel

The city of Dickinson shared a "Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant Application and Agreement" on its website this week.

Before you can receive any money from the City of Dickinson to start rebuilding your home or your business, the city is going to need you to make a few promises.

However, individuals and businesses submitting applications (pdf) for the funding must sign a contract affirming that "the applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement".

"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott, and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression", he said.

"Dickinson's requirement of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of "subversive" activity", Segura said in a statement. In a statement Thursday evening, the ACLU of Texas called the provision unconstitutional, comparing it to McCarthyism.

The boycott language was included to comply with a new state law prohibiting Texas agencies from contracting with companies boycotting Israel, said David Olson, the city attorney in Dickinson, located about 30 miles southeast of Houston.

Hurricane Harvey wrecked the Texas coast when it landed south of Houston.

As of Sep. 2017, 21 states have enacted anti-BDS laws, according to Palestine Legal, an independent organization in the US that seeks to protect the Palestinian solidarity movement from "efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction".

The bill was signed into law on Israel's independence day. This definitely should not apply to individuals because even the state law does not require that it be applied to individuals, just to companies.

The Texas law is part of a wider trend across the USA, aimed at targeting the BDS movement. The law was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on May 2 and went into effect on September 1.

"It is absolutely unconscionable for state and local governments to impose political litmus tests on disaster relief funds for people devastated by Hurricane Harvey", he added.

In Kansas, the ACLU is now taking the state to court over a contract a mathematics teacher had to sign to be eligible for a state-funded programme to help other teachers. Passed and signed into law in May, it was hailed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. She refused to sign a form to certify she isn't boycotting Israel because of a church-led boycott of that country.

The clause is based on the anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) bill, which outlaws the state of Texas from doing business with anyone boycotting Israel, which it defines as any action intended "to penalise, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel". "That sort of chill is exactly what the first amendment is meant to protect from happening".

The ACLU said that Galveston, San Antonio and Austin have all implemented this law, but Dickinson believes it's the first community to be spotlighted.

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