Palestinians walk past a sign painted on a wall in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, in 2015 that calls for a boycott of products coming from the Israeli settlements. (Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse)
Mikkel Jordahl, a lawyer in Sedona, Ariz., can now choose to buy a different brand of printers.
No longer must he stick with Hewlett-Packard technology for fear of losing his contract with the state. For 12 years, he has provided legal advice to inmates in the Coconino County Detention Facility.
In his personal life, he avoids companies he considers complicit in Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. His aim had been to extend his boycott to his one-person law office — for instance, refusing to purchase from Hewlett-Packard because its information technology services are used at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.
In his professional life, however, he was bound by a law, enacted by the Arizona legislature in 2016, requiring any business that has a state contract to certify that it was not boycotting Israel. He challenged the directive in court, claiming that it violated his First Amendment rights.
A federal judge in Arizona found merit in his complaint. U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa issued an injunction last week, blocking enforcement of the measure, which compels any business contracting with the state to submit a written pledge that it was not involved in boycott activity targeting Israel.
At issue in the case is the specific obligation imposed in Arizona, but the ruling cast doubt on the constitutionality of broader government efforts to regulate boycott activity by private companies, even those that do business with the state.
“A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott,” Humetewa wrote in her opinion in Jordahl et al v. Brnovich et al.
The finding was the second this year to turn back a wave of state legislation using public money to deter anti-Israel activity. It is in line with a similar judgment in January, when a federal judge in Kansas ruled for the first time that enforcing a state provision requiring contractors to sign a no-boycott certification violated expressive rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. Similar provisions are on the books in more than a dozen states, including Maryland, Minnesota and South Carolina, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.