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US judge dismisses lawsuit against state's Israel boycott law

The judge said the plaintiff was not affected by Maryland's ban on the government contracting with supporters of boycotts of Israel, but she did not rule on the law's constitutionality.

A US judge dismissed a lawsuit on Monday that challenged a ban targeting entities that boycott Israel.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order in 2017 prohibiting the mid-Atlantic state from contracting with businesses that support boycotts of Israel. There are several academic, cultural and economic boycotts of the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is the major player in Israel boycotts.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations sued the state on behalf of software engineer and former Maryland state legislator Saqib Ali, who argued his support of the boycotts barred him from obtaining government contracts. However, Judge Catherine Blake threw out his claim because he did not submit any bids to work for the state, The Associated Press reported.

The leading American Muslim organization also argued the ban is unconstitutional and restricts freedom of speech. The federal judge did not rule on the constitutionality on Monday, according to The AP.

Several US states have laws against their governments working with contractors that support anti-Israel boycotts. In April, a US court upheld the southern state of Texas’ law that similarly banned government contracts for supporters of anti-Israel boycotts.

Boycotts of Israel and the BDS movement in particular are controversial in the United States, where support for Israel is strong among many Americans. The Democratic Party in particular is divided on the issue leading into the November presidential election. The Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden has condemned BDS. More progressive lawmakers such as Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar support the movement.

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