Texas town offers hurricane relief, but only with a political promise

Posted October 23, 2017

Although the hurricane devastated the entire Houston metro area with record rainfall and destructive flooding, a local television news station reported in early September that "damage in Dickinson may be the worst of Harvey", with more than 7,000 homes and 88 businesses "significantly damaged".

The website for Dickinson is accepting applications for individuals and businesses who need assistance following the devastating August hurricane.

"By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement", the application reads at the very bottom.

But Dickinson isn't the only city in Texas to begin including such anti-BDS requirements in official contracts. But the application then asks applicants to pledge they won't boycott Israel.

"It is flatly unconstitutional, and morally outrageous, for the government to impose political litmus tests on access to disaster relief funds", ACLU representative Brian Hauss said in a statement. The Repair Grant offers financial aid to contractors trying to rebuild the city, but only if they agree to stand by the government's stance on supporting Israel.

"Dickinson's requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of "subversive" activity", Segura added.

"While the ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of foreign countries, the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to laws and bills and that infringe on the right to boycott", the ACLU said.

Imran Khan condemns loss of lives in Pakistan blast
In the drive-by shooting, two men on a motorcycle shot and killed police inspector Abdus Salam as he was on his way to work. Pakistani leaders, including Imran Khan, and members of the civil society condemned the attack, praying for the victims.

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

So, why is the city of Dickinson asking relief grant applicants to certify that they are not now boycotting Israel and will not boycott the country while the agreement is in effect?

David Olson, Dickinson's city attorney, told KTRK that he's obligated by state law to put the controversial clause in the application until he's told otherwise.

As the organization pointed out, the Supreme Court in 1982 ruled the government can not put a stop to any "non-violent, politically motivated boycott created to force governmental and economic change".

Rights groups, including the ACLU, similarly slammed the city of Dickinson's decision as a violation of free speech.

When he signed the bill into law in May he said that "any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy". The teacher, Esther Koontz, did not sign the contract due to her religious beliefs, and was denied funding.