Texas city offers Harvey relief in exchange for Israel no-boycott pledge

To get Harvey relief funds, residents of Dickinson must vow not to boycott Israel

A civil rights group on Friday called unconstitutional a Houston suburb's hurricane fix grant program that says residents can not boycott Israel as a condition of receiving any money.

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.

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

The state of Texas passed a law in May banning state entities from contracting with businesses that boycott Israel.

"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott", Segura added, "and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression".

"Dickinson's requirement of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of "subversive" activity", Segura said in a statement.

Bryan Milward, a management assistant for the city of Dickinson, said that the clause is included in the application because of a Texas state law.

"Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally", Gov. Abbott said at the bill's signing, according to his official website.

"In short, the Texas law being enforced by the City of Dickinson - as well as other cities throughout Texas, including Galveston, Austin and San Antonio - is leveraging vital government funds to suppress one side of a prominent public debate", Hauss said. Messages seeking additional comment from Olson were not immediately returned early Friday.

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"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".

"Conditioning the much-needed relief from Harvey and other disasters upon adopting a certain political position is really something that is very distracting and slows down the process of rebuilding after Harvey", Kallinen told the station. "The mold is bad - it looks like chalk".

But even if not one single resident in Dickinson ends up being denied a relief grant due to a present Israel boycott, Hauss stressed that the requirement is still unconstitutional.

Because the Texas law was enacted recently, it is not yet clear how the state or cities will enforce the anti-BDS measure.

But rights groups, including the ACLU, call these laws a "legislative assault" on the right to boycott.

He added that "there is no indication" that the anti-BDS law applies to individual persons. "First Amendment rights", Hauss said.

"People that want to help rebuild areas that were devastated by natural disasters have to pass a litmus test on their thoughts on the Middle East", Munayyer said. A former teacher was working as a contractor for Kansas Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships program.

Back in May, Governor Greg Abbott signed the anti-boycott, divestments and sanctions bill. "That sort of chill is exactly what the first amendment is meant to protect from happening".

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