Anti BDS legislation: the case of Esther Koontz

It was good to read that Austrian Green students have renounced BDS.  However I don’t think individuals should be penalised for taking a different view. I’ve only just heard about this case, which has been taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Esther Koontz is a maths teacher in Kansas who has fallen foul of state legislation which requires, to use Koontz’ own phrasing,  ‘any individual or company seeking a contract with the state to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel’. Koontz, partly through her involvement in the Mennonite Church, supports BDS. This personal political decision now stands in the way of her career:

I got an email from an official at the Kansas State Department of Education. She said that, in order to participate in the state’s math training program, I would need to sign a certification stating that I don’t boycott Israel. Specifically, I would have to sign below the following statement: “As an Individual or Contractor entering into a contract with the State of Kansas, it is hereby certified that the Individual or Company listed below is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” (my emphasis)

Some have argued that this is not precisely, as Koontz claims, a violation of her free speech rights, as she is not being prevented from boycotting Israel, just from combining that stance with a particular job.  But it still seems quite wrong that a privately held political view, a personal decision to avoid buying Israeli goods, should force her to lose a job opportunity in this way.

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