A federal district judge in Arkansas on Wednesday upheld a state law prohibiting state entities from entering into contracts with companies for goods or services unless those companies certify in writing that they are not currently engaged in, nor will they engage in for the duration of their contract, a “boycott of Israel.”
The Arkansas Times, which sought an advertising contract from a public university, argued that the law was a violation of the Times‘ First Amendment rights. They argued that the law impermissibly compels speech regarding contractors’ political beliefs, association, and expression and that it “restricts contractors from engaging in protected First Amendment activities, including boycott participation and boycott-related speech, without a legitimate justification.”
The judge found that the Times had standing but failed to show how a boycott of Israel was First Amendment-protected speech. A boycott of Israel “is not speech, inherently expressive activity, or subject to independent constitutional protection,” he said.
“Because engaging in a boycott of Israel, as defined by Act 710, is neither speech nor inherently expressive conduct, it is not protected by the First Amendment. Accordingly, the Arkansas Times has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”