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Bahia Amawi Deserves Her Job Back

For the record, I support Israel’s right to exist, and strongly oppose the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement designed to punish the Jewish state.

But this is un-American: [1]

A children’s speech pathologist who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf [2] was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

Here’s the Texas law:

Glenn Greenwald explains:

In order to obtain contracts in Texas, then, a citizen is free to denounce and work against the United States, to advocate for causes that directly harm American children, and even to support a boycott of particular U.S. states, such as was done in 2017 to North Carolina [3] in protest of its anti-LGBT law. In order to continue to work, Amawi would be perfectly free to engage in any political activism against her own country, participate in an economic boycott of any state or city within the U.S., or work against the policies of any other government in the world — except Israel.

That’s nuts. Read the whole thing. [1] What right should the state have to tell a public schoolteacher what she can and cannot buy, or what policies she cannot advocate? That is un-American. I would feel the same way if a state law forbade teachers from boycotting, or advocating the boycott of, Christian-owned businesses, for whatever reason. It’s not the state’s business, period, full stop.

change_me

Again: the BDS movement is wrong, and should be combated. But this is outrageous. I can’t get over the fact that Bahia Amawi, an American, can advocate against the interests of her own country, and be fine, but not Israel. Note that the bill was sponsored by an Evangelical and passed the Texas legislature by overwhelming margins.

UPDATE: David Bernstein at the Volokh blog says the Intercept has seriously misrepresented the Texas law, [4] and that a lot of people on the Internet (including, I confess, me) have falsely reported on what the Texas law does. Bernstein writes, in part:

Texas has a law banning state entities from contracting with businesses, including sole proprietorships, that boycott Israel. As a result, just like local governments require contractors to certify that they adhere to many other state laws, such as anti-discrimination laws and financial propriety laws, they also must certify, in compliance with state law, that their business does not boycott Israel.

Here is the specific language Ms. Amawi was asked to sign (see appendix A):

Pursuant to Section 2270.001 of Texas Government Code, the Contractor affirms that it: 1. Does not currently boycott Israel; and 2. Will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract Pursuant to Section 2270.001 of Texas Government Code:

“Boycott Israel” means refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israeli-controlled territory, but does not include an action made for ordinary business purposes;and

“Company” means a for-profit sole proprietorship, organization, association, corporation, partnership, joint venture, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, or any limited liability company, including a wholly owned subsidiary, majority-owned subsidiary, parent company or affiliate of those entities or business associations that exist to make a profit.

Note that, consistent with the language and obvious intent of the law (see the text here, it’s even titled “PROHIBITION ON CONTRACTS WITH COMPANIES BOYCOTTING ISRAEL”), the school district certification applies to the business, “it,” not the individual “she.” Contrary to what I’ve been reading all over the internet, Ms. Amawi is not being asked to pledge that she, in her personal capacity, will not privately boycott Israel, much less that, e.g., she will not advocate for boycotting Israel or otherwise refrain from criticizing Israel.

Briefly on the First Amendment issue, it’s no different analytically than requiring a contractor to pledge that the business does not refuse to hire Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, veterans, or another state-designated group.

He may be right about that, but in one Houston suburb last year, applicants for Hurricane Harvey relief grants were asked to sign this statement [5]:

“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.”

Did the town of Dickinson misinterpret the law? It appears so. I still don’t understand what business it is of an American state to regulate whether or not its contractors do business with companies that hold a certain position regarding trade with a foreign country.

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115 Comments To "Bahia Amawi Deserves Her Job Back"

#1 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 19, 2018 @ 10:56 pm

Its good to know that JohninCA has sufficient humility to honestly admit he has failed in his attempt to employ the Socratic method.

RATMDC, I appreciate your effort at clarification. As far as Begin’s remarks, he could well be wrong about 1967 — I bet Golda Meir would disagree with him, but they were of course political rivals within the Israeli context. Meir was Labor, Begin was Irgun folding into conservative opposition. It seems in the full context that Begin was trying to justify the invasion of Lebanon by asserting that it wasn’t so different from 1967 — when it clearly was quite different. (There were attacks on Israel based in Lebanon, but the Lebanese army was not on the border of Israel preparing to invade).

If Hamas is willing to negotiate with Israel from a position of ‘we’d like to push you all into the sea, but since we can’t win that we’ll settle for the 1967 borders,’ that’s a step in the right direction. As far as that goes, Israel might be suspicious that Hamas would use a state within the 1967 borders to develop the military position to push all the Jews into the sea, however. And its an open question whether a majority of the Palestinian people would really want to live under Hamas rule.

#2 Comment By more smoke On December 19, 2018 @ 11:17 pm

“Briefly on the First Amendment issue, it’s no different analytically than requiring a contractor to pledge that the business does not refuse to hire Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, veterans, or another state-designated group.”

What’s that supposed to mean?

Well, yes, I guess that “analytically” it’s no different than requiring a contractor to pledge the the business does not refuse to hire Martians, cannibals, or human-shark clones. It is obviously, glaringly different, because it applies to a foreign country, for God’s sake, not to US citizens or residents.

“the school district certification applies to the business, “it,” not the individual “she.””

False.

If it applies to a sole proprietor than it applies to the individual. By definition, there is no distinction between the individual and the business entity in a sole proprietorship.

Whoever wrote this either doesn’t know what a sole proprietor is or is lying.

#3 Comment By RATMDC On December 20, 2018 @ 12:46 am

@LAMM2

“I guess my 60 some years of following this story with great interest made me an nothing but an ignoramous. Good thing we have your expertise!”

I agree.

“I feel the same way about those groups as I do about the Jews in Israel. They are all the indigenous peoples of their respective homelands, and they’ve all suffered terribly from racist colonizers, whether from England or Spain or Arabia.”

I don’t think that the analogy holds for all (maybe most) Jews, in that they were not expelled by Arabs, who were in turn expelled by the Political Zionists (racist colonizers). Most Israelis are Ashkenazim, and their ancestors (those ancestors who were actually Jewish, specifically) mostly migrated into the European parts of the Roman Empire of their own free will, and then they spread farther north.

Sometimes this northward spread was not of their own free will, but they certainly couldn’t blame Palestinian Arabs for that. Those who were expelled from Palestine could blame the Roman military.

“Let me guess, you think antisemitism was invented by Hitler and also died with him, and that it’s just the most natural and innocuous thing in the world for Christians and Muslims from countries that exterminated their Jews within living memory to spend their waking hours fixating in a livid rage over where some Jews still live.”

What? Are you even paying attention? This entire issue hinges upon things like the plight of the Palestinians, Israeli foreign policy, and so on. Many of the fiercest anti-Zionists have been Jews, and that’s especially true today. Even Michael Oren (grudgingly) acknowledged this! Do lots of people who are anti-Jewish get involved in anti-Zionist activity? Definitely, and obviously. Do many of the rest of those involved in this activity hate it when that happens? Of course. Do others try to tolerate it? Unfortunately.

#4 Comment By Chief of Station On December 20, 2018 @ 3:12 am

“Do they want us to not even question the recent $38 billion in promised aid? “

That one really sticks in my craw.

$38 billion for Israel, and nothing for a wall to protect Americans.

There are few better illustrations of how deeply Israel has corrupted American politics than the way it makes American legislators prioritize Israel’s wants above American lives and safety.

#5 Comment By A Seventh Seal On December 20, 2018 @ 8:23 am

I’m afraid that serious damage has already been done.

The fact that so many state legislatures were persuaded to pass these laws is naked intimidation. It demonstrates that our government has been suborned by a foreign interest so powerful that it can strip us of our livelihoods if we don’t shut up. A foreign power that can reach right into our state government and touch us.

#6 Comment By Lamm2 On December 20, 2018 @ 10:18 am

@RATMDC

Your decency and charity is almost as commendable as your expertise.

#7 Comment By Very Small Business On December 20, 2018 @ 12:19 pm

“David Bernstein at the Volokh blog says the Intercept has seriously misrepresented the Texas law,”

And David Bernstin at the Volokh blog has seriously misrepresented what a sole proprietorship is.

The whole point of a sole proprietorship is that there is no distinction between the company and the individual. That means that demands made of the company are ipso facto made of the individual, which is the exact opposite of what Bernstein claims.

This isn’t some arcane mystery either. There are over 23 million sole proprietors in America.

Bernstein should get his facts straight before presuming to lecture others about “misrepresentation”.

#8 Comment By Harve On December 20, 2018 @ 3:32 pm

more smoke says:

“If it applies to a sole proprietor than it applies to the individual. By definition, there is no distinction between the individual and the business entity in a sole proprietorship.”

“Whoever wrote this either doesn’t know what a sole proprietor is or is lying.”

I’m sure there’s a course in basic business law at your local community college. You might consider taking it.

#9 Comment By more smoke On December 20, 2018 @ 9:52 pm

@Harve said “I’m sure there’s a course in basic business law at your local community college. You might consider taking it.”

From Wiki: “A sole proprietorship, also known as the sole trader, individual entrepreneurship or proprietorship, is a type of enterprise that is owned and run by one person and in which there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business entity. ”

There are countless other reputable sources that use the same or very similar language.

So unless Wiki is lying and the community college where you took business law is correct, it would seem that there is “no legal distinction between the owner and the business entity.” Call me naive, but I interpret “no legal distinction” to mean “NO ******* LEGAL DISTINCTION”.

In other words, when this “oath” is demanded of a sole proprietor, as a matter of law, it is demanded of the owner. You want to dispute that, fine, but your quarrel is with the English language.

#10 Comment By Josep On December 20, 2018 @ 10:51 pm

I used to be against BDS until hearing about how Israel mooches on the money of American taxpayers and influences American foreign policy to drive up the national debt scot-free. This was the last straw for me.
In all honesty, I’ve heard of how Intel manufactures its computer chips in Israel. At least one Israel supporter used this against BDS. While I myself am not going to boycott Israel (that is, until crap hits the fan), I’d be grateful to know if AMD manufactures its chips in Israel, and which other manufacturers of x86 CPUs do too.

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 21, 2018 @ 12:11 am

The whole point of a sole proprietorship is that there is no distinction between the company and the individual. That means that demands made of the company are ipso facto made of the individual

Not exactly. If an individual is in business as a sole proprietor, then their commercial activity is subject to laws and regulations governing commerce, which do not apply to their exercise of free speech, choice of what church to attend, etc. When a sole proprietor attends church, or a mosque or synagogue, the business does not attend church.

A sole proprietor could belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian (associated with Aryan Nations), while also serving all customers of their retail business without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, etc.

FINANCIALLY a sole proprietor is liable for the debts of the business, which means creditors can take your house, your car, empty your personal life savings… which is why LLC’s were invented.

You could learn about this in more detail by taking a basic business law class at your local community college. But you don’t have to take a class in basic business law to be a well informed citizen.

Incidentally, I do some freelance writing for a major publisher. Because of the way the publisher’s software is programmed, I recently got a letter informing me that the publisher complies with X, Y, and Z laws, and (addressing me by my personal name as if I were a contracting business) informing me that to continue my relationship with the publisher I may have to have policies in place that I do not do Q, R, and S. Naturally I ignored that, because I do not have policies in place on any subject whatsoever. Not the same as a sole proprietorship, but indicative of how these silly things happen.

#12 Comment By Driving Iron On December 21, 2018 @ 5:55 am

@Siarlys Jenkins : “When a sole proprietor attends church, or a mosque or synagogue, the business does not attend church.”

But when a sole proprietor seeking to do business with a state government takes an oath not to sanction Israel, the individual takes that oath right alongside the business, because the individual is the business. They aren’t legally distinct in the business context.

#13 Comment By Harve On December 22, 2018 @ 1:35 am

More smoke, the relevant distinction is with liability. That is why people incorporate or do LLCs. With a sole proprietorship or a partnership ones personal assets are at risk. You don’t lose your personal civil rights by having an unincorporated business; you can lose your shirt.

Driving Iron says:

“…the individual takes that oath right alongside the business…”

Mind citing a case to back that up? And oath? what century do you live in?

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 22, 2018 @ 12:53 pm

Driving Iron: Harve’s answer covers everything I would have said.

#15 Comment By Michael Morelan On January 11, 2019 @ 12:04 am

Yes, Bahia Amawi Does Deserves Her Job Back. She also should have a apology from the people that passes this trash law in Tx’s government. Then this law and any like it should be struck down the day this suit is settled.