A federal judge has blocked a Texas law being enforced against a Palestinian-American contractor that prohibits government agencies from doing business with companies that participated in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) efforts against Israel.
The judge ruled that the law infringed on the contractor’s First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit was filed by A&R Engineering and Testing Inc. which is owned by a Palestinian-American named Rasmy Hassouna.
“Texas’s ban on contracting with any boycotter of Israel constitutes viewpoint discrimination that chills constitutionally protected political advocacy in support of Palestine,” A&R Engineering attorneys wrote in the complaint.
Hassouna’s company had worked with the city of Houston for 17 years, but refused to renew his contract over the anti-BDS law.
“The speech contemplated by [Rasmy’s company] may make some individuals — especially those who identify with Israel — uncomfortable, anxious, or even angry,” U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen wrote. “Nevertheless, speech — even speech that upsets other segments of the population — is protected by the First Amendment unless it escalates into violence and misconduct.”
Judge Hanen added: “The Court does find that Hassouna authentically holds a pro-Palestinian point of view that is protected by the First Amendment.”
Hassouna was represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who celebrated their victory in a press release.
The injunction currently only applies to Hassouna.
“This is a major victory of the First Amendment against Texas’s repeated attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “These regressive attempts to create a Palestine-exception to the First Amendment betray the central role boycotts have played in our history.”