Top law officers for nine states signed onto a legal brief filed Tuesday asking a court to uphold Arkansas Act 710, a 2017 state law adding a pledge to not boycott Israel as a part of many business contracts with the state.
The Arkansas anti-boycott law has been challenged in a lawsuit by the Arkansas Times. The Little Rock-based news organization, represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, claims the law violates free speech protections in the U.S. Constitution. The Arkansas Times is appealing an order by a federal district court judge dismissing the lawsuit.
The brief, submitted by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, describes the Arkansas law as an anti-discrimination measure that "must be upheld against a First Amendment challenge given Arkansas's compelling anti-discrimination interests."
The nine states supporting the filing "all have a compelling interest in preventing invidious discrimination," according to the brief filed in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
More than two dozen states have filed similar anti-Israel boycott legislation, according to the brief, including an Arizona law that was temporarily blocked in 2018 following an ACLU legal challenge.
The brief refers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a loosely organized international campaign against Israel. Supporters of campaigns say the aim is to counter actions taken by Israel they describe as human rights violations against Palestinians.
The Arkansas Times, in a post on its website, has said it has never boycotted Israel nor advocated editorially for a boycott.
The brief filed Tuesday states "targeting a particular group (and those associated with them) for the intentional infliction of economic harm is discrimination, by definition." Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions boycotters "select targets based solely on membership in a particular group (i.e., Israelis), and nothing more," the brief states.
The Arkansas law "is agnostic as to underlying motivation --i. e., viewpoint," the brief states, and so should be considered constitutional.
Each of the states signed onto the brief are represented by Republican attorneys general, although Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt was appointed to the position after earlier serving as a Republican in the state's legislature.
The states participating in the brief are: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
Arkansas Act 710 requires companies to agree to the anti-boycott pledge for state contracts of $1,000 or more, with an exception for companies offering goods or services discounted by at least 20% compared with the "lowest certifying business."
Several organizations have also submitted briefs supporting the constitutionality of the Arkansas anti-boycott law, including the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy organization. Agudath Israel of America, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregants of America and StandWithUs, in a brief filed jointly, state the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is anti-Semitic.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, together with Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf and Northwestern University law professor Andrew M. Koppelman, have also submitted a brief arguing in favor of the law being upheld against a First Amendment challenge.
Several others have submitted briefs supporting the Arkansas Times, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, together with 15 other journalism groups. T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, an organization representing some Jewish clergy in North America, together with J Street, an advocacy group supporting Israel and a two-state solution for the Palestinian conflict, also submitted a brief opposing Act 710.
Metro on 06/13/2019
Print Headline: 9 states support anti-boycott law