Amawi v. Pflugerville Independent School District

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

This case is about whether Texas may prohibit boycotting the State of Israel as a condition of public employment. Plaintiffs in this case are all participants or supporters of the "BDS" movement. The BDS movement—referring to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions—arose in response to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory and its treatment of Palestinian citizens and refugees. (Abbas Decl., Dkt. 14-2, at 16-18; Clay Decl., Dkt. 14-2, at 6). Modeled after the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS movement seeks to pressure the Israeli government to end its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights, end discrimination against Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, permit Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and otherwise comply with international law. (Pluecker Mot. Prelim. Inj., Dkt. 14-1, at 10; Clay Decl., Dkt. 14-2, at 6). The BDS movement claims to be non-violent and opposed to all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. (Clay Decl., Dkt. 14-2, at 7, 11).

Congress, however, has declared that it "opposes politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, such as boycotts of, divestment from or sanctions against Israel." 19 U.S.C. § 4452. Twenty-five states have enacted legislation or issued executive orders restricting boycotts of Israel, (Texas Resp. Mots. Prelim. Inj., Dkt. 25, at 3), and several more have introduced legislation to that effect, (Abbas Decl., Dkt. 8-4, at 12-14). In every state to consider such legislation, the proposed measures have passed by considerable margins. (Texas Resp. Mots. Prelim. Inj., Dkt. 25, at 4).

In 2017, Texas joined those states opposing the BDS movement when it enacted House Bill 89, codified at Tex. Gov. Code § 2270.001 et seq. ("H.B. 89"). Texas emphasizes that H.B. 89 was "widely supported" and "passed unanimously in the House, and 26-5 in the Senate." (Texas Resp. Mots. Prelim. Inj., Dkt. 25, at 1; Texas Mot. Dismiss, Dkt. 55, at 1). As a result of the State's disapproval of the BDS movement, Plaintiffs allege that they have lost the benefit of public employment with the State of Texas, or fear losing such employment, and that H.B. 89 prohibits them from exercising their First Amendment right to boycott the State of Israel.