Palestinian-American fights newly signed anti-BDS legislation in court

A speech pathologist, who has been working in a school district outside Austin since 2009, is filing a lawsuit on the basis of freedom of speech.

December 19, 2018 14:46
1 minute read.
Texas governor anti-BDS bill law

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-BDS bill into law. (photo credit: JENNIFER KAUFMAN)


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Fired after refusing to sign a contract agreement asserting that she does not support a boycott of Israel, Bahia Amawi is not going down without a fight.

Amawi, an American citizen of Palestinian descent, is challenging her termination with a lawsuit which could upend Texas’s newly signed anti-BDS legislation.

Last year, Texas’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a law prohibiting the state from doing business with companies involved with the BDS movement.

Amawi received a new contract for the upcoming school year which asked her to declare that she does not support a boycott of Israel now and will not do so in the future.

“My first reaction was shock,” Amawi told The Texas Tribune. “Why is the government restricting me from boycotting a certain entity?”

The speech pathologist, who has been working in a school district outside Austin since 2009, is filing a lawsuit on the basis of freedom of speech.
“The First Amendment protects the rights of all speakers to advocate for all viewpoints on issues of public concern,” the lawsuit reads. “As an advocate for Palestinian rights and justice, she cannot in good faith certify or state that she does not boycott Israel, and will not engage in a boycott of Israel.”

Texas and 25 other states have passed a form of anti-BDS legislation. Governor Greg Abbott tweeted his support for Israel in response to the lawsuit.

“Texas stands with Israel,” he wrote. “Period.”

“Texas stands with Israel,” he wrote. “Period.” The Pflugerville Independent School District responded with a more sympathetic statement, writing on its Facebook page: “This language is required by the State of Texas for all school districts in Texas, along with other governmental entities. Unfortunately, Pflugerville ISD and all Texas school districts are at the mercy of the state and the regulations printed into law, and in situations such as this, we are forced to spend time on state political issues and not on our core mission — educating students.”

Amiwai seeks to render the Texas law unconstitutional, reclaim her job and receive relief for fees and attorney services.

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