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Photo Credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr

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.

Originally published at Care2.com on Dec. 26, 2019.

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