Openly gay Obama-appointed U.S. Judge Robert Pitman is looking to all the world like an activist judge.
Whatever Judge Pitman actually said, or may ultimately do, let’s get some things straight.
- To begin with, Bahia Amawi did not “lose” her job. She quit. Her speech pathology business is in no position to boycott Israel. Her signing the no-boycott pledge would have been a statement of fact.
- Secondly, the anti-DBS law is not about anyone buying hummus. The CAIR lawyer keeps saying this without anyone ever challenging him. The law is about businesses, not people, and has nothing to do with hummus.
- Third, in response to Judge Pitman’s question “What is Texas’ interest in this law?,” one might direct him here. Israel is Texas’ fourth-leading trade partner. Of all other U.S. states, Texas does the most business with Israel. Texas has done billions of dollars in trade with Israel over the last 20 years. Some of this money is public, some of it is private investments from local businessmen, entrepreneurs, etc. It is only proper that there be some oversight of this. It seems folly for the state of Texas to finance a movement that seeks to undermine its own economy.
- Finally, the anti-BDS movement is completely illegitimate. Even people who are against Israel, such as Norman Finkelstein, have publicly stated that BDS is phony. Hamas runs it.
CAIR is the American branch of Hamas arguing that anti-BDS laws are a threat to our grocery store purchases, and Judge Pitman appears to be going along with it.
“Dozens show up to support woman challenging anti-Israel boycott law,” The Statesman, March 29, 2019:
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Dozens of members from the local Muslim community packed a federal courtroom Friday to support an elementary speech pathologist who lost her job last year because of a state law that bars governmental entities from doing businesses with contractors who support a boycott of Israel.
With pews overflowing and latecomers scrambling for space to sit on the ground, Bahia Amawi testified that because of her political beliefs she examines labels at the grocery store and puts back products imported from Israel, which she said has long mistreated Palestine, her family’s native home.
When Texas passed the law in 2017, Awami, a 46-year-old mother from Round Rock, said she had to choose between her career and her principles. She chose the latter: In October, the Pflugerville school district did not renew her annual contract after she refused to initial an addendum saying she does not boycott Israel and would not boycott Israel for the remainder of her contract.
Israel is Texas’ fourth-leading trade partner.
The situation prompted First Amendment activists to rush to Amawi’s defense and get behind a lawsuit they say was needed to protect her freedom of speech and right to protest.
Amawi testified that she refuses to buy educational toys from Israel for her students and could not in good conscience sign a form saying she would refrain from doing so.
“It should be my own judgment — the political turmoil over there and whether I support it or not,” Amawi told the court.
At least 20 states have enacted laws like Texas’. Last week, University of Texas officials informed students and employees that they would not be reimbursed for work-related stays at Airbnb lodgings after the state comptroller’s office added the home rental giant to the list of companies that it says boycott Israel.
Airbnb operates more than 20,000 listings in Israel, but it doesn’t allow listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Earlier this year, state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, introduced legislation that would amend the bill to stop it from applying to individuals like Amawi. But the amendment is unsatisfying, Amawi said, because it would not strike language that stops the government from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.
U.S. District Judge Pitman did not immediately rule on the motion that Amawi’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, filed for a preliminary injunction, saying he’d respond at some point with a written ruling. An active listener for most of the proceedings, the judge turned vocal when the attorney representing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office and Pflugerville schools said Amawi would be free under the law to attend anti-Israel rallies and make anti-Israeli comments on social media. But, the attorney said, she cannot earn a living from the state because she is actively boycotting Israel.
Pitman asked, “What is Texas’ interest in this law?”
When he was reminded that four other federal judges had been split in their views on similar issues, Pitman replied, “I’ll be the tiebreaker.”
Pitman also must weigh in on a similar lawsuit from two men who say they were told they had to agree to not boycott Israel as a requirement to judge a debate competition. One of the men refused to initial a document; the other signed it but forfeited the money he was due to receive after re-reading the document and realizing what he had agreed to.
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