Missouri proposes law that would not allow boycotting Israel

Bills being proposed by the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives would require those doing business with the state to sign a document saying they will not engage in any type of boycott of the State of Israel.  

Missouri is joining a growing trend across the country by proposing a law that would make it manditory for any public entity doing business with the state to pledge not to boycott Israel in virtually any way.

House bill 2179, virtually identical to Senate bill 849, states in part "A public entity may not inter into a contract with a company to acquire or dispose of services, supplies, information technology, or construction unless the contract includes a written certification that the company is not currently engaged in, and will not for the duration of the contract, engage in, a boycott of Israel."

The bill defines "Boycotting Israel" as "Engaging in refusals to deal, terminating business activities, or other actions that are intended to discriminate against, inflict economic harm, or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with the State of Israel, or persons or entities doing business in the State of Israel." It has been construed in other states to include speech in support of the Palestinian cause or any other criticism of Israel, according to a civil rights coalition that includes 15 state and national organizations.

Opponents of the measure say that the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that government officials' opinions about what views are acceptable cannot infringe on the First Amendment-protected right to freely express political views, no matter how controversial or unpopular.

Supporters of the bill say it discourages anti-semitism and encourages a two-state solution to the Israeli problem.

A nearly identical bill signed into law by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback last year has resulted in a federal judge imposing a temporary injunction on the law, stating that political boycotts are inherently protected by the first amendment. At a court hearing on the matter in November, the state didn't even present a defense of the law, according to ACLU attorney Brian Hauss.

In Arizona, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a lawyer who refused to sign an affadavit saying he was not engaged in a boycott of Israel.

A 1982 Supreme Court case, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., resulted in the court ruling that political boycotts are protected speech under the first amendment.

Several other states have enacted, or are considering, laws similar to the Missouri bills.

Even in Israel, reaction to this type of legislation is mixed. According to the Jerusalem Post, most of the larger Jewish groups support the anti-boycott legislation, while others, such as The New Israel Fund, do not. But Israelis are following the trend.

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