‘Frightening’: US appeals court upholds Arkansas anti-BDS law
Jun 22, 2022 1 min, 19 secs
Advocates say ruling will ‘flip the First Amendment on its head’ and endanger the free speech rights of all Americans.

A US court of appeals upheld an Arkansas law that restricts state contractors from boycotting Israel, raising concerns about governmental infringement on free speech when it comes to criticism of Israeli abuses.

But advocates say laws that prohibit boycotting Israel, which have been adopted by dozens of states with the backing of pro-Israel groups, are designed to unconstitutionally chill speech that supports Palestinian human rights.

Such laws aim to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which pushes to exert non-violent pressure on Israel to end abuses against Palestinians that have been described by leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International, as “apartheid”.

The Arkansas case started in 2018 when The Arkansas Times, a Little Rock-based publication, sued the state over its anti-BDS law after refusing to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel in order to win an advertising contract from a public university.

Republican- and Democratic-leaning US states have passed and enforced anti-BDS laws, discouraging businesses from boycotting not only Israel, but also illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem and Syria’s occupied Golan Heights.

Multiple federal courts across the country have taken up and mostly blocked anti-BDS laws, but the appeals court’s ruling on Wednesday complicates the legal analysis on whether such statutes are constitutional.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director at the Council on American Islamic Relations, echoed Ayoub’s remarks, saying the appeals court’s ruling “endangers the free speech rights of every American”

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