Arizona AG Upholds Law Banning Publicly Funded Businesses From Boycotting Israel

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer
Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 - 11:54am
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 - 12:00pm

One month after a Flagstaff attorney challenged a 2016 law requiring businesses using public dollars sign a certificate pledging no money will go to firms boycotting Israeli businesses, Attorney General Mark Brnovich has picked sides.

He filed papers in federal court and claimed Flagstaff attorney Mik Jordahl's complaint that the law violates his First Amendment rights is flawed.

Jordahl is a non-Jewish supporter of the BDS movement (boycott, divest and sanctions), which deliberately boycotts consumer goods and services provided by businesses in support of occupation in Israel's West Bank.

Currently, he is on the verge of renewing a contract with the Coconino County Jail District. He has argued that he should not be forced to buy items from companies like Hewlett Packard, for instance, which sells technology to Israeli security forces in the occupied territory.

His attorney, Kathleen Brody of the American Civil Liberties Union said the law violates Jordahl's First Amendment rights of expression and association.

Brnovich is arguing that the First Amendment does not apply in this scenario.

"The act does not prevent the plaintiff from saying anything," he wrote, because Jordahl and others "can criticize Israel to their hearts' content ... make abundantly clear that all businesses they do with Israelis is under the most vociferous protest."

Brnovich wrote that the state is only denying subsidies to business conduct with which the state disagrees. He called the BDS boycotts an effort strengthening the Palestinian Authority, which is tied to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO, he wrote, pays cash stipends to the families of terrorists and Hamas, which are on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

"The state has acted reasonably to prevent commerce from being used as an economic weapon against Israel," he wrote, and called Israel a "key trading partner" to Arizona.

Even if Jordahl were denied the $18,000 annual contract with the jail district, Brnovich contended Arizona lawmakers have a legal and moral right to ensure that public funds are not used to discriminate based on national origin.

No date has been set for a hearing on the lawsuit.

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