A teacher in Texas has sued the school district in which she worked for nine years, and the state’s attorney general, after she was forced to stop working with the district because she refused to pledge not to boycott Israel.
Bahia Amawi is a speech pathologist who has worked with the Pflugerville Independent School District (PFISD) for nine years, according to her suit, which was highlighted in a report from The Intercept Monday.
A 2017 Texas law states that government entities in the state “may not enter into a contract with a company for goods or services unless the contract contains a written verification from the company that it:
(1)does not boycott Israel; and
(2)will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract.”
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to steer dollars away from Israel in order to pressure the Israeli government to acknowledge Palestinian civil and human rights, or, in Amawi’s suit’s words, “seeks the peaceful end of Israeli discrimination and maltreatment of Palestinians.”
When anti-BDS legal language, newly required by state law, was added to her most recent contract to work with the school district’s children, Amawi’s suit says, she balked.
“Ms. Amawi informed PFISD that she could not sign the addendum, asking why her personal political stances impacted her work as a speech language pathologist with PFISD,” the suit reads, adding later: “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.”
“If I [signed the anti-BDS contract addendum], I would not only be betraying Palestinians suffering under an occupation that I believe is unjust and thus become complicit in their repression, but I’d also be betraying my fellow Americans by enabling violations of our constitutional rights to free speech and to protest peacefully,” Amawi told the Intercept.
The Intercept, citing Palestine Legal, said Texas was one of 26 states, red and blue alike, to have anti-BDS legislation on the books, with similar laws pending in 13 states. Related federal legislation championed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), which previously failed to garner the support it needed to pass, might soon see President Trump’s desk.
The ACLU and other groups have challenged anti-BDS laws before. As a result of ACLU suits, a Kansas anti-BDS law was amended to exclude individuals and businesses of a certain size; and in September, a judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of an Arizona anti-BDS law. Amawi is represented by Texas lawyer John T. Floyd and the CAIR Legal Defense Fund.
The suit asserts that Texas’ law asks its residents to check their constitutional rights at the door: Absent an injunction, it says, “Plaintiff will be chilled in her personal capacity to advocate for Palestinian rights, and unable to provide speech language pathology service for children in PFISD.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded to news of the suit on Twitter:
Texas stands with Israel. Period. #txlege https://t.co/uq0ecZQ13C
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) December 17, 2018
Read Amawi’s suit below:
H/t The Intercept.