Friday, May 11, 2018

Big Media David: NPR on Arizona's anti-BDS Law

I was interviewed by NPR's Phoenix affiliate regarding the ACLU's challenge Arizona's anti-BDS law. I was positioned as the academic expert alongside the ACLU and its client challenging the law, and the AJC and Arizona Attorney General's office, defending it. Presumably, they found me either because of this column on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act or this one on the problem with trusting state bureaucrats to fight your anti-BDS battle. So I neither came out for or against the law, but rather tried to situate it inside broader controversies balancing free speech and with anti-discrimination law. The main normative point I tried to make was that when these laws are passed primarily to score an ideological point, they aren't always written or applied with the utmost care, and that poses particular dangers in the First Amendment context.

The other interesting thing I discovered while researching the case is that the Arizona AG's office does not interpret its law as covering a boycott targeting, say, HP for its alleged complicity in human rights abuses in the West Bank. Only a general boycott of all (or virtually all) Israeli products would qualify (see pp. 8-10). Whether or not that's the correct interpretation of the statute, it is a much narrower understanding of what BDS is than is typically cast either by the movement's backers or critics.

Anyway, I think it's an interesting case (and I think the NPR story was solid, all told). Most importantly, when listening to it I didn't absolutely hate the sound of my own voice, which is a rarity for me. But on that score YMMV.

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