A Recent Ruling against an Anti-Boycott Law Misconstrues Precedent

In a ruling issued last week, the Texas federal judge Robert Pitman declared a law forbidding the state to contract with businesses that boycott Israel in violation of the First Amendment. David Bernstein, calling the judge’s opinion “a mess,” exposes some of the key flaws in its legal reasoning:

First, the opinion misstates the holding of [the 1982 Supreme Court case] NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware as “recognizing that the First Amendment protects political boycott.” [But] the case actually holds that there is a First Amendment right to advocate economic boycotts, not to engage in them. If there were a First Amendment right to boycott for political reasons, then anyone politically opposed to racial integration, gay rights, and so on would have a First Amendment right to “boycott” minority groups protected by civil-rights laws. That’s in fact the implication of Judge Pitman’s opinion, and it’s hard to believe he means it. It’s even harder to believe the Supreme Court would endorse his opinion given this implication.

Second, [in the 2005 case of] Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the Supreme Court held that law schools had no First Amendment right to boycott military recruiters in the face of a federal statute barring recipients of federal funds from discriminating against those recruiters. Pitman’s attempt to [show that this ruling does not apply to the case at hand] comes down to the fact that the Court never used the word boycott in its opinion. . . .

[But] what the law-school plaintiffs were doing was clearly within the definition of the word boycott; and the plaintiffs, in their own Supreme Court brief, themselves described what they were doing as a boycott.

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Read more at Volokh Conspiracy

More about: American law, BDS, First Amendment

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter