Journalist Abby Martin Sues State of Georgia Over Law Requiring Pledge of Allegiance to Israel
Legitimate criticism of Israel is being outlawed around the world
By Graham Simms
Boycotts are an important tradition. They are free speech in action.
In 1956 Martin Luther King Jr. was convicted under Alabama law because he engaged in a political boycott. He was boycotting violations of civil and human rights-the Jim Crow laws. Many states at the time were attempting to punish civil rights activists by enforcing anti boycott laws.
By 1964, the Supreme Court came to their senses and ruled that peaceful political boycotts are protected political expressions- no government has the right to tell people what they can or can not boycott.
Yet, here we are again- with lawmakers using their influence to limit public political expression, limit public debates, and censor the free speech of those protesting government human rights violations- in this case, Israel and the USA.
Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) legislation and other laws against the criticism of Israel have been introduced across the USA, Canada, and the UK. In 2016, the Governor of Georgia introduced bill SB-3-27, which required anyone who wants a contract to work in the state of Georgia to sign an oath pledging that they will not support the boycott of products from the state of Israel. Twenty other states so far have signed similar laws. Beyond that, even more draconian legislation is being introduced to outlaw any criticism of Israel as anti Semitic hate speech.
Journalist, documentary filmmaker and political commentator Abby Martin is suing the state of Georgia over this issue. She was the key note speaker at the International Critical Media Conference at Georgia Southern State University, scheduled for Feb 28 2020. In accordance with the four year old Georgia law, she was required to sign a contract to not participate in any type of BDS boycott against Israel. When she informed the University that she would not as sign such a contract, she was canceled as speaker.
Advocating Palestinian rights or criticizing Israel was not her speech topic- she was to speak as a journalists on media and media literacy- “For this I was being asked to contractually pledge loyalty to a foreign country”, Martin explained.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, co-counsel to Abby Martin in defense of her first amendment freedom of speech, which includes the right to political boycotts, said:
“This law is blatantly, and hilariously, unconstitutional. Every American has the right to engage in boycotts- this is constitutional law 101. Imagine if during the civil rights movement the state of Alabama passed a lay saying 'if you want to work for our state you can not participate in the Montgomery bus boycott'. Imagine if during the fight against apartheid in South Africa states passed laws saying 'if you want to work for us you can't boycott the South African apartheid government'. Those laws would have been irrational, illegal and unconstitutional and so is Georgia's law. We know that and Abby Martin knows that.”
At a subsequent news conference Martin passionately outlined the two primary reasons that she felt compelled to pursue a legal case over this law:
“First my work as a journalist involves speaking about the stories I have covered at universities and public venues...my right to speak at a conference on media at a public university was conditioned on my pledge to never participate in my constitutional right to engage in peaceful political action...
It is not just this university- but my right to speak at any public university in the entire state has been taken away because I will not forfeit my constitutional rights by signing this pledge. I shall not be made to submit to never be able to speak at a publicly funded institution. These rights are invaluable. American people should not be willing to give them up. I know that I am not.
Second, separate from my professional life, in my personal life, I am politically active against issues of racism and injustice. This is of great moral importance to me. To be made to choose between my career and my political convictions - a right supposed to be protected by the US constitution- is an outrage and is unacceptable to me as an American citizen.
The BDS movement exists to mount pressure against Israel to stop these atrocities, similar to the grassroots movement that brought the end of apartheid in South Africa. Situations of oppression, racism, injustice and violations of international law, that are funded by my tax dollars, is something that I care deeply about. These are ideals that I have centered my entire life around. Like anyone who has deeply help moral or spiritual beliefs, I should not be expected to throw them away in order to simply work in the state of Georgia.
Apart from my right to free speech, my right to peaceful protest, my right to boycott- and not just mine, but the constitutional rights of every independent contractor who wants to work in this state- can not be held with such disregard by the Georgia legal system.
My aim here is to overturn these laws that violated my rights, and the rights of likely thousands of contractors, that violate the constitution every single day.”— Abby Martin January 11, 2020
Abby Martin hosted 'Breaking The Set' on RT; she hosts 'Media Roots Radio'; recently crowdfunded the film 'Gaza Fights For Freedom'; and currently the documentary series 'The Empire Files' on TeleSUR English.
Featured photos-screenshot from Empire Files/youtube