United States( The Inside Palestine)- A federal judge has ruled that Georgia’s anti-BDS law is unconstitutional. The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit that was filed against the state by journalist Abby Martin.
Martin, a longtime advocate for Palestinian rights and director of the film Gaza Fights for Freedom, was invited to give a talk at Georgia Southern University as part of a media conference in 2020. Shortly before the event the school sent her a contract to sign and, because of the state’s anti-BDS law, it contained a loyalty oath to Israel. By signing the contract Martin would have promised not to boycott the country. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of Martin.
On May 21 District Court Judge Mark Cohen blocked the state’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit. Cohen’s 29-page decision asserts that the Georgia law “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.”
“Whether in speaking out against voter suppression laws here in Georgia or human rights violations against the Palestinian people, Georgians are actively engaged in their constitutionally protected right to free speech and coordinated boycott,” said CAIR Georgia Executive Director Murtaza Khwaja in a statement. “Now, as much as ever, these rights must be cherished and preserved. The court’s decision’s today is a significant step in ensuring Georgians are able to do so freely today and in future.”
Martin also released a statement:
I am thrilled at the judge’s decision finding this law unconstitutional as it 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 principles of freedom and democracy.
The government of Israel has pushed state legislatures to enact these laws only because they know that sympathy and support for the population they brutalize, occupy, ethnically cleanse and subject to apartheid, is finally growing in popular consciousness ––they want to hold back the tide of justice by preemptively restricting the right of American citizens to peacefully take a stand against their crimes.
The court’s decision was praised on Twitter by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. “Big win for the BDS movement,” she tweeted. “Let’s go.”
While the ruling is a major BDS victory, Cohen has yet to rule whether the law should be struck down. The court will now decide what action should be taken to remedy the constitutional violation.