AUSTIN (KXAN) — Bahia Amawi had a choice to make: work for Pflugerville ISD and sign a pledge she wouldn’t boycott Israel or find another job. Instead, she sued the district with the support of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
A Federal judge sided with her and temporarily blocked a state law that bans state contractors from boycotting Israel.
The Texas legislature passed the law — what’s known as an anti-BDS law — in 2017. It doesn’t allow state contractors or public funds to go to people and companies that are boycotting Israel. “BDS” stands for boycott, divest, and sanction and relates to the effort of putting economic pressure on Israel to cease expanding settlements into land held by the Palestinians.
Amawi is Muslim of Palestinian origin.
Amawi said she filed suit, not for Israeli or Palestinian values but for American values.
“It is our responsibility to fight, protect, and preserve free speech for our children, similar to exactly what our founding fathers had envisioned,” said Amawi.
Despite the loss of her job, Amawi said she never thought about leaving Texas.
“I know I was on the right side of this fight. Being that said, I didn’t think I was going to run away from this fight.”
Federal Judge Robert Pitman in the ruling wrote the popularity of the law didn’t matter.
“Texas touts these numbers as the statute’s strength. They are, rather, its weakness… the First Amendment in particular[,]” is “to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation,” wrote Pitman.
The State of Texas, which is defending Pflugerville ISD in this case, is expected to appeal.
In a statement Friday, the Texas Attorney General’s office said:
“We’re disappointed with the ruling essentially requiring government to do business with discriminatory companies. We look forward to defending this law on appeal.”
The largest example of this is Airbnb, which stopped offering rooms in contested turf between Israel and Palestine. The company reversed course after UT-Austin banned its employees from using Airbnb while traveling.