Americans Are Losing Jobs for Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel Oaths

There’s a great deal of ire coming from the realization that foreign powers like Russia and Saudi Arabia have likely been exerting an alarming amount of influence over U.S. democratic processes and leadership. And while these revelations are more than worthy of our collective indignation, Americans are failing to recognize another major foreign entity whose influence is just as great — if not greater — than those two: Israel.

For more than a decade, people in the United States and elsewhere concerned about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians have come together as part of the BDS — Boycott, Disinvest and Sanctions — movement. It’s modeled after an activist strategy used decades ago to protest apartheid in South Africa; both aim to apply economic pressure to encourage meaningful political change.

However, the BDS movement hasn’t gone without notice from Israel and pro-Israel groups in the United States. It’s spurred a backlash that, regardless of one’s personal political stance, should alarm any citizen who supports American sovereignty and Constitutional protections.

Since 2014, 102 laws have been passed on state and local levels across 26 states, which — in one way or another — prohibit American citizens from participating in BDS activity. At the moment, another 13 states are considering similar legislation. Some of these laws have gone so far as to allow employers — even public employers — to require that workers give an anti-BDS/pro-Israel pledge.

Bahia Amawi, a U.S. citizen and child speech pathologist, had been working as a contractor at a public school district in Austin, Texas, since 2009. Her work aids young children with developmental disabilities and speech impairments. However, Amawi lost her position when it came time to renew her contract with her school.

While the contract that Amawi was given appeared identical to those she’d signed in the past, the most recent version included a small new section which, among other things, asked that she “does not currently boycott Israel” and agrees to not do so while under contract. It then included technical legal terminology specifying what this entails, including “taking any action that is intended to penalize” any individual or company connected to Israel or an “Israel-controlled territory.”

Amawi couldn’t in good conscience agree to these terms, feeling it was a deep violation of some of the most fundamental protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution — namely the First Amendment’s promise of freedom of speech and demonstration.

Such anti-BDS oaths are eerily similar to anti-communist oaths that were pervasive during the McCarthy Era, a time when ideological hysteria threatened to supersede the very freedoms Americans traditionally cherish. These modern oaths, however, have implications that are perhaps even more disturbing than their Red Scare equivalent.

How would similar oaths be received by Americans were they to deal with, for example, Russian or Saudi businesses — or even one connected to another U.S. ally like Canada? They would, of course, be utterly unfathomable.

Take Action!

The ability to voice and act on one’s personal political beliefs is one of the most important freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution — so much so that it is explicitly included in the First Amendment. As such, it is abundantly clear that the large number of laws being passed and considered around the country prohibiting BDS movement participation is downright unconstitutional.

While the issue may eventually make its way to a federal court, by then a number of employees’ freedoms will already have been infringed upon. As such, the most expedient course of action would be for the incoming Congress to address the matter by passing legislation which explicitly forbids laws that restrict freedom of speech or include oaths to foreign nations and companies.

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Photo Credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr

78 comments

Freya H
Freya Hyesterday

Silja, that is not the point. Your argument is pure sophistry.

1) Our quarrel is NOT with Israeli researchers and scientists - it is with Netanyahu and his vile policies.

2) If you think that those critical of Israel should not benefit from what Israelis have discovered, then you should not benefit from anything that came out of Nazi Germany, or was developed by anti-Semites, which means that you must NEVER, NEVER, indeed seven times NEVER i) ride in a Volkswagen or Ford, ii) take part in an anti-smoking campaign, iii) benefit from a drug or other medical treatment that was developed without the use of lab animals, iv) benefit from anything that originated in the space program, because NASA gained a lot from the research and genius of Werner von Braun, and remember who his original boss was; v) listen to any music by Richard Wagner (sorry, you'll have to plug your ears whenever "Ride of the Valkyries" plays). And that's just for starters!

3) If Israelis had not made those discoveries or developments, somebody else would have - the Germans, the Japanese, the French, hell, possibly even Americans.

At least you admit that no country is free from blame. If you don't want anybody to benefit from a country that does wrong, neither should you. Hole up in a cave, catch and grow your own food, make your clothes from animal skins and your tools from rocks, and stay the hell off the Internet - which, by the way, we have thanks

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silja s
silja s3 days ago

one should first think about boycotting any nation. israeli medical discoveries which are life saving. 1)the SensAheart, it detects a heart attack coming on 2)Nicom is a non-invasive cardiact monitor, to prevent sepsis a life threathing infection 3)Airway Collar is airway management and cervical collar for cases of severe trauma to the neck and spine also non-invasive 4)Babysense a breathing monitor alerts parents to respiratory cessation (apena) this technology has helped over 600,000 babies globally from crib death. I could go on there are many amazing discoveries .. as a final note to this post Israelset up a field hospital on its border with Syrian so that Syrians during the civil war continue receiving lifesaving treatment of the wounded WIthout Charge. The syrian B'athist government is supported by Iran Russia and Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Syrian based Palestinian group PFLP-GC . Having mentioned all this I am aware that no country is free from blame. Many wrongs are done everywhere.
Further to my comment no company in america or elsewhere
should fire, or dismiss their employees for not supporting Israel, or again for any country or cause, at this same time we should all be aware of the world politics when it comes to the Middle East.

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Vincent T
Vincent T6 days ago

Signed. Thanks.

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berny p
berny p6 days ago

and.....

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Daniel N
Daniel N8 days ago

tyfs

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Mia B
Mia B11 days ago

Thank you

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan H13 days ago

thanks

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Caitlin L
Caitlin L14 days ago

signed

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Daniel v
Daniel v16 days ago

this article is about foreign country's interfering in ours ,and it right on !I no other country has interfered more ten Israel in our elections. We should not have an oath to any foreign country .that includes congress. same with Saudi Arabia .we have a genocide going on in Yemen estimated 8 to 13 million civilian people dying of hunger a long slow dead United states ,great Britain and France supping military weapons and intelligence. Bottom line is our politician should be representing us and defending our interests .and the same try to keep peace in the world

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel B17 days ago

Freya H
It looks as if Judith A has stopped following this thread. It's a pity if so because we are offering her important things to think about in the agonising anti-semitism debate. One of the really poisonous effects of Judith's kind of thinking is that Jews who are critical of present Israeli politicis get called 'self-hating Jews' and how can you defend yourself from that if your reasoning is not listened to? It's all very worrisome!

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