'WILLING TO TAKE A STAND ON IMPORTANT ISSUES': Says Alan Leveritt, founder and publisher of the Arkansas Times. Brian Chilson

NBC News has a long article on the Arkansas Times legal battle with the state over a law that requires all state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel or take 20 percent less in fees. The Times, represented by the ACLU of Arkansas, challenged the law in federal court. U.S. District Judge Brian Miller dismissed the case. The Times has appealed the decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

As Times Publisher Alan Leveritt tells NBC, the Times hasn’t advocated for a boycott of Israel, but we believe the pledge is unconstitutional and signing it would violate our journalistic ethics.


“We don’t have a dog in that hunt,” Leveritt told NBC. “We are a lot more interested in Medicaid expansion than we are Jerusalem.”

NBC delves into the legal debate on whether the right to boycott is constitutionally protected.


While much of the debate around BDS centers on whether the movement is discriminatory against Jewish people — something its critics proclaim and its supporters, many of whom are Jewish, vehemently deny — at the crux of the ACLU’s lawsuit is a different issue: Is there a constitutionally protected right to political boycott?

Alyza Lewin, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, said she doesn’t believe BDS is protected by the Constitution, and the Brandeis Center says legislation like Act 710 does not violate free speech.

“There is no unqualified right to a political boycott,” Lewin said. She believes the ACLU is “conflating speech with conduct” and is falsely arguing the government “must subsidize discriminatory conduct.”

Ramya Krishnan, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University, disagrees.

“The Supreme Court held almost four decades ago that politically motivated consumer boycotts are a form of protected free speech,” Krishnan said.

Krishnan was citing NAACP vs. Claiborne Hardware, the landmark 1982 civil rights case that said “while states have broad power to regulate economic activity,” the First Amendment protects those who use boycotts to “bring about political, social, and economic change.”

It’s clear, Hauss said, that people participating in boycotts of Israel are doing it for political reasons, emphasizing that none of the ACLU’s clients who oppose anti-BDS legislation have ever profited from their boycott.