Texas Will Fire You If You Don't Promise To Buy An Israeli SodaStream, We Guess

State/Local Politics

Children's speech pathologists do a lot of things. They help kids overcome speech impediments, they help them speak and communicate more clearly, they assist with language comprehension, etc. etc. They are required, in the United States of America, to hold a Master's Degree in Communicative Disorders/Speech-Language Pathology from an accredited university in order to practice. In Texas and several other places, however, if they work for the state, they are also required to sign an oath swearing that they will not boycott Israeli products or advocate for a boycott of Israeli products to protest the treatment of the Palestinian people.

The Intercept reports that Bahia Amawi, a Texas elementary school speech pathologist who has been working in Texas schools since 1999, has been barred from working in public schools due to her refusal to sign this oath -- which is absurd and mostly unenforceable. (What? Are they going to stop by every state contractor's house to make sure they have some Sabra hummus in their refrigerator? Are they going to check bra tags to make sure they're from Victoria's Secret, even if Victoria's Secret does not even sell their bra size? What if they just don't happen to own a SodaStream because they don't have the counter space? What if they don't use Moroccan Oil because it weighs their hair down?) Besides that, of course, the oath is a clear violation of both her First Amendment rights and her rights as a consumer to buy whatever she damn well pleases.

School Speech Pathologist in Texas Terminated For Refusing to Sign Israel Oath youtu.be

Here is the oath Amawi, who was born and raised in Palestine, was required to sign, in all of its HUAC-style glory:

Do you now or have you ever not purchased something from a country whose policies you disagree with?

As Glenn Greenwald notes, this is the only political affirmation state contractors are required to sign:

This required certification about Israel was the only one in the contract sent to Amawi that pertained to political opinions and activism. There were no similar clauses relating to children (such as a vow not to advocate for pedophiles or child abusers), nor were there any required political oaths that pertained to the country of which she is a citizen and where she lives and works: the United States.

There are political and social opinions one can hold that could absolutely affect the way someone does their job or the way they treat people on their job. For instance, if someone were going around spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric in their off-time, they probably should not be working with kids in public schools, as it is likely they would discriminate against Jewish children. If someone in charge of hiring or firing people is going around screaming about how women should have to stay home and not work, that's not going to look too good if a woman sues them for discrimination. It is a bad idea to have a white supremacist EMT or a law enforcement officer who believes in QAnon, as those are beliefs that could affect their job performance or reflect poorly on their mental stability. As Amawi pointed out in her complaint against the Pflugerville School Board, there is really no conceivable way that one's personal opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could conceivably affect a speech pathologist's job performance.

The reason Amawi was required to sign the oath is because Texas, like 26 other states (including New York and California), has a statute preventing any state money from going to any person or entity supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement -- which, like similar boycotts against South Africa during apartheid, is meant to be a peaceful way to protest Israel's occupation of Palestine and their treatment of the Palestinian people. Which, you know, has not been great.

Via Human Rights Watch:

Israel maintains entrenched discriminatory systems that treat Palestinians unequally. Its 50-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza involves systematic rights abuses, including collective punishment, routine use of excessive lethal force, and prolonged administrative detention without charge or trial for hundreds. It builds and supports illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, expropriating Palestinian land and imposing burdens on Palestinians but not on settlers, restricting their access to basic services and making it nearly impossible for them to build in much of the West Bank without risking demolition. Israel's decade-long closure of Gaza, supported by Egypt, severely restricts the movement of people and goods, with devastating humanitarian impact. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza both sharply restrict dissent, arbitrarily arresting critics and abusing those in their custody.

There are those who want to connect opposition to Israel's policies towards the Palestinians to anti-Semitism. (And there are plenty of people for whom that would be true!) Yet, particularly in Texas, this kind of support of Israel has absolutely nothing to do with opposition to anti-Semitism or any great love of the Jewish people and everything to do with the fact that Evangelicals think that Jesus won't come back to vacuum them up to heaven and do the apocalypse unless Jewish people are in Israel. This itself is far more anti-Semitic than opposing a country's treatment of an occupied population. There are also those whose support for Israel has a lot more to do with believing America needs an ally in the Middle East than it does with supporting Jewish people. To boot, not only are there many Jewish people who support the BDS movement, there are even Zionists who support boycotting Israeli products made in West Bank settlements.

We've had a lot of people in this country screaming about how private companies, like Facebook and Twitter, are violating the First Amendment rights of bigots to say anything they want, about how boycotts themselves violate free speech by making it harder for people like Tucker Carlson to get lots of money for his television program, about how the "PC Police" violate the First Amendment rights of bigots by telling them they are being bigots. But none of those things actually violates anyone's First Amendment rights. A private company cannot violate a person's First Amendment rights and neither can an individual. Only the government can, and in this instance, the government is.

[The Intercept]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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