Houston Suburb to Harvey Relief Applicants: Don’t Boycott Israel

In the Houston suburb of Dickinson, residents are struggling to get their lives back on track. Hurricane Harvey devastated the city, destroying scores of homes and businesses. The city, fortunately, has a plan to help. Officials there are accepting applications for relief grants “from funds that were generously donated to the Dickinson Harvey Relief Fund.”

But there’s a catch.

The application, recently posted online, includes a provision requiring Dickinson residents to vow in writing that they will not boycott Israel. The relevant section, titled “Verification not to Boycott Israel,” reads:

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 city attorney, David Olson, said Dickinson officials are following a Texas law that blocks state agencies from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel.

“The city in no way advocates on behalf of the underlying political issue, but we’re doing everything in our power to follow state law,” Olson told NBC News on Friday.

Gov. Gregg Abbott signed that legislation in May, declaring that “anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies.” The so-called Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions) law took effect on Sept. 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union sharply criticized the boycott provision of the relief application as a violation of free speech.

Image: A volunteer looks for people wanting to be evacuated from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas, Aug. 28, 2017.

A volunteer looks for evacuees amid floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas, Aug. 28, 2017.