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Lawsuit against Kansas law meant to protect Israel dismissed

A federal judge in Kansas dismissed a lawsuit Friday over a state law requiring contractors to agree 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 known as Boycott, Divest, Sacnciton–BDS. 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.

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. The church tends to side with Palestinians and Hamas in the struggle between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. 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 BDS movement targeting Israel. It is also opposed to a proposed federal bill that would target BDS groups.