Texas city offers Harvey relief in exchange for Israel no-boycott pledge

By Ray Downs  |  Oct. 20, 2017 at 2:11 AM
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Oct. 20 (UPI) -- A Texas city is telling its residents that if they want aid to rebuild from Hurricane Harvey, they have to promise not to boycott Israel -- a deal the American Civil Liberties Union says is unconstitutional.

In Dickinson, Texas, located just outside Houston, residents were hit hard by the storm in August and the local government there began accepting applications for grants to rebuild homes and businesses on Oct. 11. Grants were distributed via the Dickinson Harvey Relief Fund, which was set-up by the municipal government via the city's website.

In order to qualify, it said, the recipient must agree not to boycott Israel.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the application says applicants must not "boycott Israel during the term of this agreement."

The geopolitical ideology requirement caught the attention of the ACLU, which said it violates the U.S. Constitution.

"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression," said ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura. "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."

Texas and several other states, though, already have laws on the books that prohibit the state from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

A similar bill at the federal level is also being considered.

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