A CHILDREN’S SPEECH PATHOLOGIST who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told she can no longer work with the public school district after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.
The child language specialist, Bahia Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties (see video below). Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.
Amawi began working in 2009 on a contract basis with the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes Austin, to provide assessments and support for school children from the county’s growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. The children with whom she has worked span the ages of 3 to 11. Ever since her work for the school district began in 2009, her contract was renewed each year with no controversy or problem.
But this year, all of that changed. On August 13, the school district once again offered to extend her contract for another year by sending her essentially the same contract and set of certifications she has received and signed at the end of each year since 2009.
She was prepared to sign her contract renewal until she noticed one new, and extremely significant, addition: a certification she was required to sign pledging that she “does not currently boycott Israel,” that she “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract,” and that she shall refrain from any action “that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israeli or in an Israel-controlled territory.”
The language of the affirmation Amawi was told she must sign reads like Orwellian — or McCarthyite — self-parody, the classic political loyalty oath that every American should instinctively shudder upon reading:
According to recent reports, congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle are planning to sneak a bill criminalizing politically motivated boycotts of Israel into the end-of-the-year omnibus spending bill.The bill’s original sponsor, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), is pushing Democratic leadership to include this bill, which has not moved forward thus far primarily because it violates the First Amendment. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are reportedly leaning toward slipping the text into the spending bill, which needs to pass for the government to stay open.
Hollywood actress Natalie Portman has called Israel’s nation state law “racist” in an interview with London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.“The Nation-State law is racist,” the Israeli-American actress said in the interview published in Arabic yesterday. “It is a mistake and I don’t agree with it.”
In a speech to The Harvard Club, Cuomo said New York would “lead by example.” “We are also a place of action,” he continued. “We want to take immediate action because we want Israel to know that we’re on their side. If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”
Facing growing condemnation for anti-Palestinian racism, Israel has gone from accusing its critics of anti-Semitism to exploring ways to criminalize a boycott movement intended to create a real democracy for Jews and Arabs, writes Lawrence Davidson.
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