October 22, 2019

Federal Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Challenging Arkansas Anti-BDS Law

Photo from Flickr/Nicolas Raymond.

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas’ anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) law.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of The Arkansas Times, argued that the law violated the First Amendment for requiring state contractors to pledge against boycotting Israel.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller did not agree, arguing that commercial boycotts are not a protected form of speech since they don’t fall under the category of expressive speech.

“It [the Times] may even call upon others to boycott Israel, write in support of such boycotts, and engage in picketing and pamphleteering to that effect,” Miller wrote. “This does not mean, however, that its decision to refuse to deal, or to refrain from purchasing certain goods, is protected by the First Amendment.”

While the Times does not currently engage in a boycott of Israel or argue in favor it, the paper refused to sign a pledge to never boycott the Jewish State after one of its advertisers, the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, asked them to do so as part of the state law. The college then revoked its business from the Times.

Miller also wrote, “Israel in particular is known for its dynamic and innovative approach in many business sectors, and therefore a company’s decision to discriminate against Israel, Israeli entities, or entities that do business with or in Israel, is an unsound business practice, making the company an unduly risky contracting partner or vehicle for investment.”

Amanda Priest, spokeswoman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, told the Associated Press (AP), “Attorney General Rutledge is pleased with Judge Miller’s ruling dismissing the Arkansas Times’ meritless lawsuit and upholding state law prohibiting discrimination against Israel, an important American ally.”

Holly Dickson, legal director of ACLU Arkansas, told the AP, “We disagree with the district court’s decision, which contradicts two recent federal court decisions and which would radically limit the First Amendment right to boycott.”

StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement, “We commend the wisdom of the judge’s decision.”

“As the court recognized, taxpayers need to be protected from being complicit in discrimination, which both undermines state policy and harms its economy,” Rothstein said.