Dickinson Demands People Seeking Harvey Relief Promise Not To Boycott Israel

To get Harvey relief funds, residents of Dickinson must vow not to boycott Israel

In Dickinson, Texas, residents must sign a pledge not to boycott Israel in order to obtain hurricane relief funds.

Months later, Texans are still cleaning up in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and one local municpalitiy has the American Civil Liberties Union crying foul.

"By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement", the application says.

Andre Segura, legal director for ACLU of Texas, blasted the grant aid condition as a violation of free speech and said the government can not hinge relief funds on a promise to "refrain from protected" political speech.

In a statement released Thursday, ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura called Dickinson's inclusion of the requirement "an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of "subversive" activity".

Bryan Milward, a management assistant for the city of Dickinson, said that the clause is included in the application because of a Texas state law.

When Governor Abbott signed the law, he said boycotting Israel is anti-Texas.

"Like the law we challenged in Kansas, Texas's law clearly violates the First Amendment", Hauss told The Intercept.

Dickinson's attorney, David Olsen, told Houston's ABC affiliate "until someone tells them something differently, they are obligated by state law to place this clause in their application". "The government should not be denying disaster relief funds based on people's political beliefs". "The mold is bad - it looks like chalk".

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The ACLU is now representing a Mennonite school teacher in Kansas who was denied an employment opportunity after refusing to certify that she does not boycott Israeli products.

Verification not to Boycott Israel.

The law, which is similiar to laws in at least a dozen other states, took effect September 1. Accordingly, the state declined to contract her.

The Texas law is part of a wider trend across the United States, aimed at targeting the BDS movement. "These laws have been popping up over the past few years as part of what we view as a sustained legislative assault on the right to boycott", Hauss told Bustle.

"People that want to help rebuild areas that were devastated by natural disasters have to pass a litmus test on their thoughts on the Middle East", Munayyer said.

In 2017 alone, six governors signed state laws that prevent the government from doing business with companies that boycott Israel.

So, why is the city of Dickinson asking relief grant applicants to certify that they are not now boycotting Israel and will not boycott the country while the agreement is in effect?

"Congress has also a federal bill, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, that threatens serious sanctions against anyone who support boycotts called for by global governmental organisations, such as the UN Human Rights Council", Hauss said.

Olson said it's unclear if the new law applies to the city's grant program, funded by more than $1 million in private donations for victims. "That sort of chill is exactly what the first amendment is meant to protect from happening".

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