Why Laws Protecting Israel from Boycotts Don’t Run Afoul of the First Amendment

Last week, New Hampshire became the 37th state to prohibit government contractors from boycotting the Jewish state. Opponents of such laws have labeled them an assault on freedom of speech, and in some cases have invidiously described them as requiring individuals and businesses to “sign a pro-Israel oath.” Eugene Volokh, a libertarian legal scholar, investigates the constitutionality of anti-boycott laws—and determines that they do not raise any First Amendment concerns:

Decisions not to buy or sell goods or services are generally not protected by the First Amendment. . . . Thus, for instance:

  • A limousine driver has no First Amendment right to refuse to serve a same-sex wedding party, even if he describes this as a boycott of same-sex weddings (or part of a nationwide boycott of such weddings by likeminded citizens).
  • A store has no First Amendment right to refuse to sell to Catholics, even if it describes this as a boycott of people who provide support for the Catholic Church.
  • An employer in a jurisdiction that bans political-affiliation discrimination has no First Amendment right to refuse to hire Democrats, even if it describes such discrimination as a boycott.

Of course, all these people would have every right to speak out against same-sex weddings, Catholicism, the Democratic party, unions, and Israel. That would be speech, which is indeed protected by the First Amendment.

This lack of constitutional protection [for boycotts] simply reflects a well-established principle: the First Amendment does not generally protect liberty of contract, whether or not one’s choices about whom to deal with are political.

Read more at Reason

More about: American law, BDS, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy