Pro-Israel groups combat ACLU's suit on Arizona’s anti-BDS law

The law, passed in March 2016, directly forbids Arizona government agencies from engaging contractors who participate in boycotts of Israeli goods or services.

BDS (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
NEW YORK – A pro-Israel organization on has filed documents with a US court seeking to uphold an anti-BDS law in Arizona.
StandWithUS, in cooperation with the Israel Project and the Israel Allies Foundation, filed an amicus brief with a federal court to uphold HB 2617, legislation that prohibits state commerce with any company that “discriminates on the basis of nationality, national origin, or religion.”
The law, passed in March 2016, forbids Arizona government agencies from engaging contractors who participate in boycotts of Israeli goods or services.
Amicus briefs are legal documents filed in appellate court cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter, according to Public Health Law Center.
“The briefs advise the court of relevant, additional information or arguments that the court might wish to consider,” the center added.
Arizona is one of 23 US states and “dozens of municipalities” that have passed anti-BDS laws to bar discrimination against Israelis and Jews.
StandWithUS, which describes itself as “an advocacy organization that promotes education and understanding of Israel,” says Arizona’s legislature recognizes that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is the “modern-day manifestation of anti-Jew bigotry resurrecting stereotypes and demonization that Jews have met for centuries.
“BDS targets the Jewish state instead of Jewish people,” StandWithUS CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement.
“It denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination and deploys traditional antisemitic canards against Israel and its supporters. BDS has one goal: The defamation and eventual elimination of the Jewish state.
“By seeking to deny Jewish rights, and targeting Israel alone,” the statement continues, “BDS perpetuates the conflict to the detriment of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
“It is a well-funded, well-organized, strategic global propaganda campaign, and US citizens who abhor discrimination should not be forced to participate by having their state contract with bigots,” Rothstein added.
The court filing cites America’s “long and honorable history of resisting antisemitism,” which “gives bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
The brief further argues that the Arizona law is constitutional and does not curtail anyone’s First Amendment rights, according to a StandWithUs press release. “The Act does not constrain... expression of political views; it addresses nonexpressive conduct not entitled to First Amendment protection.”
In December, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Arizona law, arguing that “everyone has a right to express their opinions... and act accordingly.”
But Jonathan M. Rotter, an attorney who prepared the brief on behalf of StandWithUS, argues that a person can express disapproval of high rates of taxation in words but not by refusing to pay taxes.
The ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of an attorney who contracts with the state of Arizona to provide legal services to people in jail.
In his personal life, attorney Mikkel Jordahl refuses to purchase consumer goods and services offered by businesses that he says support Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinian territories.
Jordahl wants to extend his boycott to his law firm and to use the firm to provide legal support to other organizations engaged in boycotts and related political expression.
The ACLU noted in a statement that the US Supreme Court has ruled decades ago that political boycotts are free speech protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Other decisions have established that the government may not require individuals to sign a certification regarding their political expression in order to obtain employment, contracts or other benefits, the ACLU said.
The ACLU is also currently pursuing a case filed in November against a similar law in Kansas.
JTA contributed to this report.