ACLU Slams Houston Suburb for Withholding Hurricane Relief to Anyone Boycotting Israel

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However, individuals and businesses submitting applications (pdf) for the funding must sign a contract affirming that "the applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement".

The city appears to be enforcing a recently passed Texas law that requires all state contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.

"It's completely unreasonable", said Ayesha Khan, a UTHealth PhD student who has been active in rebuilding and recovery efforts in Houston, and an organizer in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Milward emphasised that the city will not be verifying compliance with the clause and said he doesn't expect any applications to be rejected because of it.

Gov. Abbott said on his official website, "Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally".

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However, Houston-based civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen told Middle East Eye that the clause is a violation of freedom of speech.

He was formerly a campaigns officer with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian civil society coalition that acts as the Palestinian reference of the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with worldwide law.

The First Amendment protects the right of Americans to participate in political boycotts, a right explicitly recognized by the Supreme Court in a case that concerned an NAACP-organized boycott to protest white supremacy in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

"Dickinson's requirement is 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", Segura added.

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Mayor Julie Masters was not immediately available to answer questions, though we left a message and will update this story if she gets back to us.

Surrounding cities hit by Harvey do not ask for a similar stipulation, according to Middle East Eye, and Kallinen said he is unaware of other municipalities requiring a like-minded clause.

The city of Dickinson, Texas is requiring people applying for Hurricane Harvey aid to promise not to boycott Israel. Two university professors estimated that the total damage in the areas affected may reach up to $198bn. Half of the city's 20,000 residents were impacted, and the storm caused serious damage to more than 7,000 homes and 88 businesses, according to local police reports.

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