Maryland: Former legislator sues state over anti-BDS law | Middle East Eye
A software engineer and former state legislator is suing the US state of Maryland over its anti-boycott law.
Saqib Ali, who became the first Muslim member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 2006, said he refused to sign a “loyalty oath” pledging that he does not boycott Israel, in order to win a contract to build a computer programme for the state.
“I do boycott Israel and the illegally occupied territories because Palestinians are not free; they live under a brutal military occupation,” Ali said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit on Wednesday.
“And until that occupation is ended, I decided I will boycott Israel. It is my First Amendment right. It is guaranteed by the US Constitution.”
Maryland is one of the dozens of states that have passed measures banning government entities from hiring companies that boycott Israel.
The push is part of a nationwide effort to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to pressure Israel economically and politically to end its abuses against Palestinians.
Critics of such measures say they restrict freedom of speech, protect a foreign nation from criticism and censor meaningful debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last year, US courts in Kansas and Arizona ruled that it is unconstitutional to force government contractors to refrain from boycotting Israel, blocking the anti-BDS laws in both states.
In the case of Maryland, the anti-boycott measure was enacted through an executive order by Republican Governor Larry Hogan in 2017, after it failed to pass through the legislature.
Hogan has defended the executive order, saying that it aims to protect Israel from BDS.
“They’re asking people to discriminate against Israel,” he said of the movement after signing the order in 2017, as reported by the Baltimore Sun at the time. “There’s no argument to the contrary that makes any sense.”