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State doesn't have to do business with those who boycott Israel

It is striking that on the same day that The Sun published an op-ed claiming that the state of Maryland was unconstitutionally punishing companies who boycott Israel (“Md. lawsuit: Punishing companies for boycotting Israel violates First Amendment rights,” Jan. 22), a federal court in Arkansas issued a ruling dismissing a constitutional challenge to that state's law forbidding state agencies from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel. The court ruled that engaging in a boycott of Israel is "neither speech nor inherently expressive conduct," and therefore is not protected by the First Amendment.

However, even if such boycotts were deemed to be constitutionally protected speech, nothing in the First Amendment obligates the state of Maryland to passively participate in the BDS movement by contracting with those who boycott Israel. The state has a valid interest in opposing a discriminatory movement which views Israel, a country with significant economic ties to Maryland, as a pariah whose very right to exist is illegitimate.

Maryland is home to more than 30 Israeli businesses, and the total impact of Maryland/Israeli trade and investment in 2017 was $469.6 million, including $185 million in Israeli foreign direct investment in Maryland that supported more than 600 jobs, $221 million in Maryland exports to Israel and $62 million of Israeli imports into Maryland.

The First Amendment is not abridged by Gov. Larry Hogan's narrowly crafted executive order, which protects this relationship by requiring contractors to certify they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel. (Contractors who merely support BDS but do not actively boycott Israel are not affected).

Jay Bernstein, Baltimore

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