February 13, 2020
Georgia’s anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) law was challenged in January by a documentary filmmaker whose invitation to speak at Georgia Southern University was withdrawn when she would not pledge to refrain from boycotts against Israel.
When Abby Martin refused to sign the state-mandated pledge, her invitation to be the keynote speaker at the 2020 International Critical Media Literacy Conference at Georgia Southern’s Savannah campus was withdrawn, and the Feb. 28-29 conference was canceled.
Georgia law requires that anyone signing a contract valued at $1,000 or more with a state agency sign the pledge. Former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation creating the law on April 26, 2016. Martin was to have been paid a $1,000 honorarium, plus expenses.
The BDS movement seeks to apply economic and political pressure to force Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinians, including construction in the West Bank, often referred to by religious and nationalist Jews as Judea and Samaria.
The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the CAIR Legal Defense Fund, and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed suit Jan. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta, naming as defendants Steve Wrigley, chancellor of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and Kyle Marrero, president of Georgia Southern.
According to the suit, “Martin emailed in response: As I’m sure you know, a lot of my work advocates the boycott of Israel … [and] I cannot sign any form promising to not boycott Israel.”
The plaintiffs asked the federal court to issue an injunction against enforcement of the Georgia law and for the statute to be declared “unconstitutional and unenforceable statewide,” and they are seeking $1,000 in compensatory damages for Martin. The case remains before the court.
In October, two liberal Jewish organizations joined the case on Martin’s behalf. J Street and T’ruah filed a brief in federal court, saying they oppose BDS but that the laws punish open debate.
- Dave Schechter
- Year in Review
- Georgia Southern University
- BDS Movement
- 2020 International Critical Media Literacy Conference
- Nathan Deal
- West Bank
- Council on American-Islamic Relations
- CAIR Legal Defense Fund
- Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
- Steve Wrigley
- Regents of the University System of Georgia
- Kyle Marrero