Want Storm Relief in Texas Town? Pledge Fealty to Israel

ACLU isn't happy about requirement for applicants seeking Harvey aid in Texas
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2017 1:23 PM CDT
Want Storm Relief in Texas Town? Pledge Fealty to Israel
A truck passes down a road with rising water on Sept. 1, 2017, in Sargent, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A tweet from the ACLU Thursday noted an oddity taking place in the Lone Star State. "The city of Dickinson, Texas is requiring people applying for Hurricane Harvey aid to promise not to boycott Israel," the tweet read, leaving many commenters puzzled as to how potential financial assistance for local storm victims could possibly be dependent on their political views about a country across the globe. And sure enough, when one heads over to the Dickinson website, the application to receive a Harvey relief grant contains a section on the third page titled "Verification Not to Boycott Israel," spelling out that the applicant will "not boycott Israel," and won't do so at any time "during the term of this Agreement." The Washington Post and Dallas News offer some context, with a Dickinson city lawyer pointing to a state law he says makes this language legally acceptable.

That legislation, in effect as of Sept. 1, is the Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions) bill, which, per a release, "prohibits all state agencies from contracting with, and certain public funds from investing in, companies that boycott Israel." "Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas," Gov. Greg Abbott said at the bill's May signing. But some note the law mentions companies that boycott Israel, not individuals, and the ACLU says this condition for aid violates one's right to protest. "The government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression," the ACLU of Texas' legal director says in a statement. "Dickinson's requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths," he adds. (More Texas stories.)

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