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Filmmaker who wouldn't sign Georgia's anti-BDS oath sues state

Abby Martin refused to sign the anti-BDS oath [Twitter]

Date of publication: 13 February, 2020

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A fimmaker Abby Martin had refused to sign Georgia's anti-BDS law.
A documentary filmmaker who refused to sign Georgia state's mandatory oath on the non-violent Boycott Divestment Sanctions of Israel will sue the US state for violating her right to free speech.

In her federal lawsuit, Abby Martin says she refused to sign the oath, and her scheduled appearance this month at a Georgia Southern University media conference was then cancelled.

"I will not forfeit my constitutional rights by signing this pledge," Martin said at a Monday news conference to announce the lawsuit.

A Georgia law passed in 2016 requires some people to sign an oath pledging not to boycott Israel in order to do business with the state of Georgia.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office condemned any attempt to boycott Israel in the US.

"It was also not for nothing that the American administration has taken this step together with us. In recent years, we have promoted laws in most US states, which determine that strong action is to be taken against whoever tries to boycott Israel", the office tweeted.

"Two days after I filed a lawsuit challenging Georgia's unconstitutional law against boycotting Israel, Israeli Prime Minister responds by threatening any state that allows BDS," Martin responded.

"A foreign country is using economic punishment to dictate the constitutional rights of Americans," she added.

Spokespeople within Georgia's university system referred questions to Georgia Southern spokesman John Lester. He said Georgia Southern hasn't yet seen the lawsuit.

"Ms. Martin's concerns appear to be related to requirements of a state law enacted in 2016," Lester said in a statement.

The law requires that anyone who wants to contract with the state of Georgia for services worth more than $1,000 sign the oath, said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Georgia. 

"That oath applies whether you are a substitute teacher who wants to work for our public school system, whether you are a construction worker who wants to build something for our state, or whether you are a journalist who wants to speak at a state university," Mitchell said.

"Imagine if during the Civil Rights movement, the state of Alabama passed a law saying if you want to work for our state, you can not participate in the Montgomery bus boycott," he added.

Martin was to be paid a $1,000 honorarium plus expenses to be the keynote speaker for the 2020 International Critical Media Literacy Conference. So university officials asked her to sign a "Memorandum of Agreement" which stated: "You certify that you are not currently engaged in, and agree for the duration of this agreement not to engage in, a boycott of Israel."

After Martin refused to sign, the university prevented her from speaking and the entire conference was cancelled, the lawsuit states.

The law is similar to others passed in recent years in more than 20 states, including Texas, Arizona, Arkansas and Maryland, Mitchell said. His organisation has been involved in fighting such laws nationwide, including Georgia's.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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