The town of Dickinson, which resides south of the Johnson Spaceflight Center, was one of the hardest hit areas in Texas due to Hurricane Harvey. Many homes and businesses wound up being flooded out. Six weeks after the storm, the community is still trying to recover.

However, it looks like Middle East politics has intruded into efforts to make homes and businesses whole after the storm. The city of Dickinson has started to dole out money from the Dickinson Harvey Relief Fund. Clause 11 of the grant application has raised some eyebrows and has triggered the ACLU.

The clause requires recipients not to boycott the state of Israel as a condition of receiving the funds. The American Civil Liberties Union believes this requirement is unconstitutional. However, the clause is in response to state law.

How does Israel enter into the matter?

The Boycott Sanctions Divestment movement has arisen on a number of college campuses and in European countries urging the businesses do not deal with Israel. The BDS supporters assert that they are only taking this action in response to what they view as Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. Opponents of BDS counter that the real intent is to coddle terrorists who want to end the State Of Israel. Besides, the BDS campaign resembles the “Do not buy from Jews!” campaign during Nazi-era Germany.

The state of Texas took the latter view and therefore passed a law that prohibited funding of contractors and other entities that engaged in the BDS inspired boycott. The law was passed in the last legislative session and is similar to ones in a dozen different states.

The ACLU position

The ACLU believes that the right to boycott, even for noxious reasons, is protected by the United States Constitution.

Neither Dickinson nor the State Of Texas has any right to make nonparticipation in such a boycott a condition to receive hurricane aid.

The next step is likely the filing of lawsuits against the city of Dickinson and the state of Texas. The ACLU will have to find someone who is willing to have to stand in the lawsuit, i.e., someone who is boycotting Israel or perhaps intends to and wants the aid being offered.

Such a person would likely suffer a certain degree of social stigma is he or she steps forward.

Whether such a lawsuit has a chance is something that cannot be predicted. State and local governments, as well as the feds, slap all sorts of requirements for receiving money as a matter of course. The defendants will argue that no one is saying one should not boycott Israel, just that they cannot do so and expect government money. Bringing the first amendment into it would open a Pandora’s Box that a lot of people would just as soon leave closed. Besides, a suit might delay the disbursement of relief funds, which will make the ACLU very popular in South Texas to be sure.