Israel is under constant existential threat from its neighbors and has to endure anti-Semitic attacks from around the world. America has historically been a staunch ally, but at least one safeguard has fallen away.
A U.S. district struck down a Georgia law barring anyone who is associated with the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement from speaking at a state university, the Washington Examiner reported. Judge Mark Cohen ruled Friday that the law was an infringement on free speech rights.
A 2016 Georgia law required Abby Martin, a filmmaker and journalist, to sign off on a promise not to support boycotts of Israel. It was part of the paperwork required for her to hold an event at Georgia Southern University in the Peach State, but when she refused, her event was canceled.
Martin sued GSU officials and the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, Steve Wrigley. Cohen ruled in her favor, stating the requirement “prohibits inherently expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment, burdens Martin’s right to free speech, and is not narrowly tailored to further a substantial state interest.”
“Even assuming that Georgia’s interest in furthering foreign policy goals regarding relations with Israel is a substantial state interest,” the judge wrote in his decision, “Defendants fail to explain how Martin’s advocacy of a boycott of Israel has any bearing on Georgia’s ability to advance foreign policy goals with Israel.” Martin was pleased with the ruling.
In a statement following the ruling, she said she was “thrilled at the judge’s decision to strike down this law that so clearly violates the free speech rights of myself and so many others in Georgia. My first amendment rights were restricted on behalf of a foreign government, which flies in the face of the principle of freedom and democracy.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations represented Martin. The organization pointed out that 26 other states have similar laws on the books meant to protect Israel from economic hardship at the hands of anti-Semitiic Palestinian sympathizers.
While the judge may be correct that it would be a violation of the First Amendment, the spirit of the law is about solidarity with America’s ally in the Middle East. The country is more tolerant of other religions and is a safe haven for liberty in a region mostly hostile to Western ideas and ideals. Even if Martin has the freedom to promote such treatment of one of America’s allies, it doesn’t mean her view is morally just.