Arizona State University (ASU) followed through on its promise to support the free speech of critics of Israel last week by revising a contested agreement with a Muslim speaker. The Muslim Students Association invited Hatem Bazian of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) to speak at ASU on April 4, but his contract included a clause requiring him to certify he would not boycott Israel. Bazian not only supports boycotts on Israeli companies and products but also planned to make them the topic of his speech.
A variety of religious groups from Mennonites to Muslims boycott Israeli companies and products. AMP lists getting Israel to end “its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” among the goals of its boycott.
About two dozen states, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, have enacted laws to effectively boycott the boycotters by denying them state contracts on the grounds they discriminate against Israel. Even the U.S. Congress has considered such a law to combat the movement’s perceived anti-Semitism. In France, calling for boycotts of Israel is considered a hate crime.
ASU said earlier it did not intend to enforce the 2016 Arizona law against doing state business with those who spurn working with Israel. But the contract it sent Bazian required him to renounce his boycott. Bazian and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sued in federal court, claiming the Arizona law violated his First Amendment right to free speech. ASU revised its contract with Bazian to remove the contested language, but CAIR and Bazian plan to continue their challenge.
“We are pleased to hear that ASU … will not interfere with Dr. Bazian and AMP’s First Amendment rights,” said Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of CAIR in Arizona. “This is further evidence that the state law attempting to chill free speech was problematic from its onset and still needs to be addressed.” Similar cases are underway in other states. In February, a U.S. district judge in Kansas ruled that state’s anti-boycott law promoted discrimination and “impermissible goals under the First Amendment.” —Lynde Langdon