The Arizona attorney general continues to defend a law enacted in his state that prohibits the state government from contracting with businesses that boycott Israel.
Known as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the boycott seeks “the end of Israeli occupation of ‘all Arab lands,’ the full equality of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the ‘rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. Resolution 194,’” according to The Washington Post.
Critics of the movement, however, view the campaign as discriminatory. The Anti-Defamation League — no friend to conservatives — says the BDS campaign “rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” and “is the most prominent effort to undermine Israel’s existence.”
Arizona passed a law in 2016 — with bipartisan super-majorities — designed to keep the state from funding businesses that discriminate against Israel by endorsing the BDS campaign.
Mikkel Jordahl, a lawyer who provides legal advice to inmates in Arizona’s Coconino County Detention Facility, is a supporter of BDS. He has a state contract, which means he can’t boycott Israel using his business. Jordahl refuses to buy technology from Hewlett-Packard because the company’s services are used by Israel in the West Bank, according to the Post.
“In his professional life, however, he was bound by a law, enacted by the Arizona legislature in 2016, requiring any business that has a state contract to certify that it was not boycotting Israel. He challenged the directive in court, claiming that it violated his First Amendment rights,” the Post reported.
Earlier this year, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich vowed to defend the law from this lawsuit, saying in a press release that upholding the law prevents discrimination.
“The law prohibits all state contractors, who receive taxpayer money, from discriminating on the basis of national origin. Nothing in the statute prevents the defendant from exercising his First Amendment rights," he said.
The press release further states that this is not a free speech issue and says Jordahl wasn’t engaged in a real boycott of Israel — he was just boycotting “a handful of companies whose perceived political views he finds objectionable.”
In late September, a judge issued an injunction against the state. U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa wrote that the law did limit one’s free expression.
“A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott,” Humetewa wrote.
Last week, Brnovich fired back in opening arguments submitted to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the BDS movement seeks to inflict “economic pain” on Israel and ends up hurting Jews the most. He also said the movement has “anti-Semitic motivations.”
He noted that similar legislation banning discrimination has been upheld after First Amendment challenges, according to American Jewish newspaper Algemeiner.
“That is particularly true as the effect — and often goal — of BDS boycotts is to strengthen the hand of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which pays cash stipends to the families of terrorists, and its governmental coalition partner — and terrorist organization — Hamas,” Brnovich said. “The First Amendment does not leave the State powerless to prevent its commerce from furthering such unsavory — and frequently murderous — ends.”