News & Politics

A Texas City Will Only Give Out Hurricane Harvey Relief to Residents Who Swear Not to Boycott Israel

Texas is one of multiple states in violation of the First Amendment.

Damage from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, TX
Photo Credit: Eric V Overton/ Shutterstock

Dickinson, TX has opened up its application for city aid relief for some Hurricane Harvey victims, but not for all. Residents seeking repairs and renovations because of Harvey damage may not be able to get the aid they’re looking for if they also support a boycott of Israel, or may support one in the future. 

In the four-page long Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant Application and Agreement, Item #11 of the agreement states, “Verification not to Boycott Israel. By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.”

The component of this agreement was highlighted Thursday in a Facebook post by the organization Jewish Voice for Peace.

“Disaster relief is being denied to those who use nonviolent tactics to support Palestinian human rights,” Rabbi Joseph Berman, JVP’s Government Affairs Liaison said. “This is outrageous. This is unconstitutional. This is Trump’s America.”

The condition of the aid application was also circulating on Twitter. Palestine Legal tweeted:

This May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a piece of legislation, H.B. No. 89, also referred to as “anti-BDS” legislation, or the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The legislation “prohibits all state agencies from contracting with, and certain public funds from investing in, companies that boycott Israel.”

Dickinson city attorney David Olson told ABC13 Eyewitness News that the wording in the application was following the law.

Pieces of legislation like this have been appearing in multiple states, including Kansas. The ACLU is currently representing a Kansas teacher on the grounds that the legislation violates the First Amendment. The ACLU released a statement Thursday about the situation in Dickinson.

“The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression,” ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura said in the statement. “Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity.”

City secretary Alun Thomas did not return a request for comment by AlterNet.

This video, shot by CNBC videographer Jerry Miller shows the extent of the damage in Dickinson


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Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.