A 2018 report shows that American citizens are actively being stripped of their First Amendment rights. As Glenn Greenwald, reported, 26 states have enacted Israel loyalty oath requirements for contract workers, and 13 other US states have similar bills pending. Greenwald’s reported cited figures from Legal Palestine, an independent organization that protects the civil rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian freedom.
The laws allow the state governments to sanction and impose limits on citizens who participate in political boycotts of Israel. The First Amendment is supposed to protect citizens from being punished for expressing their political beliefs, Greenwald reported, but for Bahia Amawi, a children’s speech pathologist in Texas, this has not been the case.
Amawi has been helping developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students as a contract worker in the Western District of Texas for over nine years. When it was time for her to sign her annual contract renewal, she was shocked to see that the contract required her to sign an oath pledging that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. Amawi could not agree to the terms of the contract because she and her family had made a personal choice to avoid purchasing Israeli goods to boycott the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Her decision to not support the Israeli economy is not only her right as a consumer, but also, her right as an American citizen.
Despite her guarantee to freedom of speech and association, as laid out in the Bill of Rights, Amawi was punished for not willing to sign the oath, and she subsequently lost her job. Not only is Amawi facing the consequences of Israeli loyalty oath requirements, but this infringement also has the potential to affect many other Americans and their freedoms as well. According to Greenwald, under these laws, “The vast majority of American citizens,” are now “officially barred from supporting a boycott of Israel without incurring some form of sanction or limitation imposed by their state.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has advocated against Israel loyalty oaths, asserting that “states should not be suppressing expression they find objectionable or politically unpopular.” When states enact such policies, Americans are stripped of their rights to engage in peaceful activism and political expression.
Source: Glen Greenwald, “A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States—So She Lost Her Job,” The Intercept, December 17, 2018, https://theintercept.com/2018/12/17/israel-texas-anti-bds-law/.
Student Researcher: Briana Earls (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Sonoma State University)