- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2022

The American Civil Liberties Union asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to review a lower court’s ruling against boycotting Israel, arguing the restriction impedes on First Amendment rights.

The petition comes on behalf of the Arkansas Times, which is contesting a 2017 Arkansas state law that says government contractors must pledge not to boycott Israel or else they must reduce their fees by 20%. 

The paper lost a contract with the state-run University of Arkansas System for not promising to engage in any boycotts against Israel for the duration of the contract. The publisher of the paper refused to sign the document, saying it was violating protected speech.

The law defines the boycotts as refusing to deal or engage in business activities with Israel or people associated with the country. 

“This rule gives policymakers free rein to selectively penalize boycotts that express disfavored messages, as Arkansas did here. Because the law at issue here targets political boycotts on the basis of their anti-Israel content and viewpoint, it is more constitutionally suspect,” the petition says.

The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against the paper, upholding the law.

It would take at least four justices to vote in favor of reviewing the appeal for oral arguments to be scheduled.

Progressive Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota have championed the BDS movement — “boycott, divestments, sanctions” — against Israel in favor of the Palestinian territory.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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