BDS activists
BDS activists iStock

A federal US judge has let stand an Arkansas law requiring state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel, ruling that such a boycott is not protected by the First Amendment, The Associated Press reports.

The ruling was handed down on Wednesday by US District Judge Brian Miller, who dismissed the lawsuit the Arkansas Times had filed challenging the 2017 law.

The newspaper had asked the judge to block the law, which requires contractors with the state to reduce their fees by 20 percent if they don’t sign the pledge.

The Times’ lawsuit said the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College refused to contract for advertising with the newspaper unless the newspaper signed the pledge. The paper isn’t engaged in a boycott against Israel, according to AP.

Miller wrote on his ruling that refusing to purchase items isn’t protected speech. He noted that the Times wouldn’t be barred from other protected forms of speech, including writing or picketing against Israel policies.

“It may even call upon others to boycott Israel, write in support of such boycotts, and engage in picketing and pamphleteering to that effect. This does not mean, however, that its decision to refuse to deal, or to refrain from purchasing certain goods, is protected by the First Amendment,” wrote the judge.

Arkansas is one of a host of US states that have approved legislation against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

In addition to Arkansas, states that have approved anti-BDS legislation include: New York, California, New Jersey, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Kansas, Texas and Virginia.

The anti-BDS laws have been challenged in other states as well. Last year, a federal judge temporarily blocked the anti-BDS law in Kansas following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In September of 2018, a federal judge blocked Arizona from enforcing a similar measure.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been challenged in Texas, where a speech pathologist sued the local public school district in December, after she was let go for refusing to sign an agreement that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel,