Residents of a Texas town must declare support for Israel before receiving Harvey relief funds


Residents of Dickinson, Texas, are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of the state’s coastline in August. But anyone looking to apply for relief grants to help the city recover will have to first declare where they stand on Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

An application for Harvey relief, accessible through the city’s website, requires that anyone applying for a grant must first certify that they will not boycott the state of Israel.

“By executing this agreement below, the applicant verifies that the applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement,” the application reads.

The American Civil Liberties Union has already come out against the requirement calling it unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.

Mic reached out to Dickinson City Administrator Alun Thomas for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

But the problem of restricting critical aid over Middle East politics may be much bigger than this one small town. In May, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a statewide prohibition barring government agencies in Texas from working with or funding any group or organization that supports the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement.

More on Hurricane Harvey's impact on Texas communities

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A man carries a dog after being rescued from rising floodwaters due to Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left�Houston�immersed and helpless,�crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state thats home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A boy hugs his grandmothers' dog after being rescued from rising floodwaters due to Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left�Houston�immersed and helpless,�crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state thats home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 27: Volunteers and officers from the neiborhood security patrol help to rescue residents and their dogs in the upscale River Oaks neighborhood after it was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 27 2017: Elma Moreno comforts her dog, Simon as they are loaded on to a trucks after being evacuated from their flooded apartment. Tropical Storm Harvey is causing major flooding throughout Houston and Southeast Texas. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A man carries a dog after being rescued from rising floodwaters due to Hurricane Harvey at the Highland Glen housing development in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left�Houston�immersed and helpless,�crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state thats home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bentley, a 10 year old maltese, takes refuge with his owner in a school after they lost their home to Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, U.S. August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Pets are evacuated from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People and their pets are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey on a boat in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Kenneth and Minnie Bice prepare to sleep outside the M.O. Campbell Red Cross shelter in Aldine, Texas, United States August 28, 2017. Pets are not allowed inside and so the two are sleeping on the portico with their two dogs and a cat. REUTERS/Peter Henderson
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 27: Residents carry their pets and belongings along Mercury Drive as they flee flood water at their homes in Houston, TX on Sunday, Aug 27, 2017. Rising water from Hurricane Harvey pushed thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground Sunday in Houston. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Flood victims move crates with pets at a shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Rescue teams in boats, trucks and helicopters scrambled Monday to reach hundreds of Texans marooned on flooded streets in and around the city of Houston before monster storm Harvey returns. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People check in with their pets to a shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Rescue teams in boats, trucks and helicopters scrambled Monday to reach hundreds of Texans marooned on flooded streets in and around the city of Houston before monster storm Harvey returns. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Evacuation residence from the Meyerland area are loaded onto a truck on an I-610 overpass during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Hurricane Harvey left a trail of devastation Saturday after the most powerful storm to hit the US mainland in over a decade slammed into Texas, destroying homes, severing power supplies and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Evacuation residents from the Meyerland wait on an I-610 overpass for further help during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Hurricane Harvey left a trail of devastation Saturday after the most powerful storm to hit the US mainland in over a decade slammed into Texas, destroying homes, severing power supplies and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People make their way out of a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Evacuees make their way to dry land after leaving their homes that were inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A vet holds a dog at a shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Rescue teams in boats, trucks and helicopters scrambled Monday to reach hundreds of Texans marooned on flooded streets in and around the city of Houston before monster storm Harvey returns. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People evacuate their homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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BDS is a tactic used by groups and individuals who oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Participants do not purchase products made in Israel, support divesting from any investments in Israel and promote international sanctions against the state for its actions.

Towns like Dickinson may be including odd provisions like the one in their application in order to comply with state law. If that is the case, then towns across Texas could be required under state law to do the same.

“If these funds are administered by a state agency, then these funds have to be dispersed in a way that follows the laws of the state of Texas,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “And that includes this anti-BDS legislation, which says that they’re not going work with anybody who boycotts Israel.”

Texas is not the only state with these kinds of laws on the books. Across the country anti-BDS groups have promoted state and local anti-BDS legislation, despite the fact that state governments and municipalities traditionally do not play any significant role in U.S. foreign policy.

“There are a lot of states that have either passed some of these bills or are considering them. Munayyer said. “And some of them actually have teeth attached to them and are, like the bills in Kansas and Texas and New York or elsewhere, where it says the state will actually deny services to people who are engaged in BDS efforts.”

In Kansas, the ACLU has brought a case against that state’s anti-BDS law on behalf of Esther Koontz, a math teacher who was selected for a Kansas teaching program but denied her position for supporting her church’s BDS movement.

The movement for state-level anti-BDS legislation comes in the wake of conflict over a U.S. Senate bill that aimed to take similar action against BDS nationwide.

The bill drew intense backlash from civil liberties advocates, forcing at least one progressive lawmaker to withdraw her sponsorship of the bill and others to publicly come out against it.

But anti-BDS advocates have had much better luck at the state level, pressuring lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

In the crowded Democratic primary race for Illinois governor, progressive candidate Daniel Biss was forced to drop his running mate Carlos Ramirez-Rosa after Rosa’s support for BDS became an issue.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post supporting his state’s anti-BDS law, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo summed up the position of theses state-level campaigns saying, “If you boycott Israel,” his state will “boycott you.”

In hurricane-struck Dickinson, that philosophy is on full display.

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