Lawsuit dismissed over Kansas anti-BDS law; state to pay plaintiff’s legal fees
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Lawsuit dismissed over Kansas anti-BDS law; state to pay plaintiff’s legal fees

Esther Koontz, who works at a Wichita public school, participates in the boycott of Israel and was denied a state contract as a result

A man holds a sign during a rally in support of the BDS movement in Albany New York, on June 15, 2016. (AP/Mike Groll)
A man holds a sign during a rally in support of the BDS movement in Albany New York, on June 15, 2016. (AP/Mike Groll)

A federal judge in Kansas dismissed a lawsuit Friday over a state law requiring contractors to swear they will not boycott Israel.

The lawsuit in the US Court for the District of Kansas was dismissed after the state amended the legislation, but the state still must pay $41,602.50 for the plaintiff’s legal fees.

The plaintiff, Esther Koontz, brought the case in October 2017 with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Koontz, who works at a Wichita public school, was denied a state contract because she participates in the anti-Israel boycott. The Kansas law, which took effect one year ago on July 1, 2017, required that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.”

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church, which in July 2017 voted to divest from businesses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. She had sought a training position with the Kansas Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships Program.

The court in January suspended the state law. In March, in an attempt to salvage the law, the Kansas legislature narrowed the scope of the legislation, making it apply only to businesses and not individuals, and made it apply only to contracts higher than $100,000.

The ACLU is mounting similar challenges to laws passed recently in other states that ban state entities from doing business with those who adhere to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. It is also opposed to a proposed federal bill that would target BDS groups.

Critics of BDS say the goal of the movement is the destruction of the Jewish state, but backers say it is only related to the human rights of Palestinians.

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