The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Arkansas’ anti-BDS law in a ruling issued today, February 12, a clear victory against unconstitutional legislation attempting to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights. The National Lawyers Guild and Project South had filed an amicus brief in Arkansas Times, LP v. Mark Waldrip, et. al, challenging the anti-boycott law, which required government contractors to sign a “loyalty oath” pledging not to boycott Israel. The primary litigation was led by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Arkansas Times.
“The Circuit Court’s opinion this morning reaffirms that there can be no exception, in a free society, to the right to defend oppressed people in Palestine through our speech and advocacy — including boycotts,” said Amith Gupta, co-author of the brief and Atlanta-based civil rights attorney, Guild member, and former Legal Fellow with Project South.
The Arkansas anti-BDS bill is part of a slate of anti-Palestinian repressive legislation being forwarded in state, local and national legislatures across the country, all with the aim of punishing supporters of Palestinian rights and undermining growing support for the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli goods, cultural projects and academic institutions so long as Israel continues to violate Palestinian rights.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) call by Palestinian civil society organizations demands that Israel comply with international law by ending its occupation of Palestinian land, recognizing equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and respecting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.
“We celebrate this victory for free speech and renew our commitment to challenge laws that penalize U.S. residents for their refusal to take loyalty oaths to the Apartheid state of Israel,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director at Project South and a past president of the National Lawyers Guild.
NLG members Amith Gupta, Jordan Kushner, Azadeh Shahshahani, and Reem Subei contributed to the brief.
Read the amicus brief and the Circuit Court ruling below.
Eighth Circuit Court Decision: