Federal court upholds anti-BDS bill in Arkansas

(JNS) A federal judge upheld an Arkansas law that forbids state agencies from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Arkansas Times, claiming that the measure violated the First Amendment.

“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,” wrote Miller. “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.”

The judge added, “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.”

Although the Times does not currently engage in or advocate for BDS, the outlet refused to sign a pledge never to boycott Israel after one of its advertisers, the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, requested they do so in accordance with the state law. In response, the school ceased business with the paper.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and StandWithUs applauded Miller’s ruling.

“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,” Amanda Priest, spokesperson for Rutledge, told the Associated Press.

“We commend the wisdom of the judge’s decision,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein. “As the court recognized, taxpayers need to be protected from being complicit in discrimination, which both undermines state policy and harms its economy.”

However, ACLU Arkansas legal director Holly Dickson told the Associated Press: “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.”

Photo: Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock, by jglazer75/Wikimedia Commons