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US pathologist denied work for pro-Israel loyalty oath

Bahia Amawi refused to sign contract that says she would not boycott Israel

Umar Farooq   | 17.12.2018
US pathologist denied work for pro-Israel loyalty oath

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON

A children's speech pathologist is being denied work because she refused to sign an oath saying she would not engage in a boycott against Israel, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that argues her free speech rights are being violated.

Bahia Amawi spent the last nine years being contracted at the Pflugerville Independent School District (PISD) in the state of Texas, where she worked to conduct bilingual Arabic evaluations and early childhood evaluations for Arabic-speaking students.

Amawi, a U.S. citizen, received her master's degree in speech pathology from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. And she has been working with youth who have difficulty with language.

Each of the past nine years, she received an offer to renew the contract annually. Each time the contract was the same, until the contract renewal she received this past year had one small addition which made it difficult to ignore.

The new addendum in the contract stated that Amawi must affirm she "does not currently boycott Israel" and "will not Boycott Israel during the term of the contract."

In May 2017, the Texas legislature passed the "No Boycott of Israel" law that bars any public worker from engaging in any boycott against Israel during the tenure of their contract.

"When I saw that it was a total shock to me. I didn’t understand how my position as a speech therapist helping kids with their speech and communication has to do with any economic harm with Israel. I didn’t see a connection at all," Amawi said at a news conference Monday.

"I was appalled that my government was restricting me from boycotting an entity. I felt like my rights were taken away, that I had no choice in what products I purchased," she added.

After not agreeing to the section of the contract, Amawi was forced to resign from her position with the school district.

According to The Intercept online news site, she is the only certified Arabic-speaking child’s speech pathologist in the district. Her termination could leave many children with speech pathologies without proper evaluation and treatment.

The lawsuit, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Defense Fund, argues Amawi is exercising her freedom of speech by boycotting Israel, and is within her constitutional rights.

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," the lawsuit said, citing the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

CAIR called on Texas to send Amawi a new contract without the oath to not boycott Israel.

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