City of Dickinson defends Harvey relief requirement regarding Israel

22 October, 2017, 02:25 | Author: Katrina Soto
  • Houston Texas. Over a week after Hurricane Harvey hit Southern Texas residents are beginning the long process of recovering from the stor

Generally, the requirements outlined in Dickinson's Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant Application and Agreement are predictable: Applicants must agree to follow building codes and get necessary permits, and to use distributed funds exclusively for their agreed-upon project. You'll have to use the grant money exclusively for the rebuilding project.

Those seeking Harvey relief from the city's grant fund got quite a surprise when they went to fill out the application form.

"As Israel's number one trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership".

In order to qualify, it said, the recipient must agree not to boycott Israel.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticized the application an attack on free speech.

Andre Segura, legal director for ACLU of Texas, blasted the grant aid condition as a violation of free speech and said the government can not hinge relief funds on a promise to "refrain from protected" political speech.

"Supreme Court precedents going back to the McCarthy era establish that the government can not force people to sign loyalty oaths or other certifications regarding their political beliefs, expression and association in exchange for government benefits".

The ACLU statement also said the application form was "unconstitutional".

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As of Sep. 2017, 21 states have enacted anti-BDS laws, according to Palestine Legal, an independent organization in the USA that seeks to protect the Palestinian solidarity movement from "efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction". "Anti-Israel politics are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally".

The ACLU is now representing a Mennonite school teacher in Kansas who was denied an employment opportunity after refusing to certify that she does not boycott Israeli products.

And, according to Hauss, Texas isn't the only place where similar anti-BDS laws have cropped up. She refused to sign a form to certify she isn't boycotting Israel because of a church-led boycott of that country.

Mayor Masters and other officials created a grant relief program so they could best allocate that money, public money that became subject to the same laws of the state aka House Bill 89. "These laws have been popping up over the past few years as part of what we view as a sustained legislative assault on the right to boycott", Hauss told Bustle.

"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.

The ACLU said that Galveston, San Antonio and Austin have all implemented this law, but Dickinson believes it's the first community to be spotlighted.

"Congress has also a federal bill, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, that threatens serious sanctions against anyone who support boycotts called for by worldwide governmental organisations, such as the UN Human Rights Council", Hauss said.

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