The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism

Federal judge rejects lawsuit challenging Arkansas anti-BDS law

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A federal judge in Arkansas has thrown out a challenge to the state’s anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions law, rejecting the argument that commercial boycotts qualify as protected speech.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Miller’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Arkansas Times newspaper, which had refused to sign a document saying it was not and would not boycott Israel as a condition for an advertising contract with the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College.

The newspaper was not involved in a boycott but objected on First Amendment grounds to complying with the 2017 law, known as Act 710, which prohibits the state from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel.

In his Wednesday ruling, Judge Miller denied the newspaper’s request for a preliminary injunction, saying the Times was unlikely to prevail on the merits because “it has not demonstrated that a boycott of Israel, as defined by Act 710, is protected by the First Amendment.”

“It is highly unlikely that, absent any explanatory speech, an external observer would ever notice that a contractor is engaging in a primary or secondary boycott of Israel,” the judge said in his 17-page opinion.