GUEST BLOG: Lois Griffiths – WELCOME TO 2019 (or is it 1984?)


US citizen Bahia Amawi is a language specialist who works with autistic and speech-impaired children. She received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties . For the last nine years she has worked with  developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school children  in Austin, Texas. Each year she signed an annual contract that allowed her to continue.

But now she has been told that she is fired!



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The school district has  added a new clause to the contract, requiring teachers and other employees to pledge not to boycott Israel “during the term of their contract”. Bahia Amawi refused to sign what amounts to an oath :

Quoting Glenn Greenwald,

vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise take any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation.

‘The oath given to Amawi would also likely prohibit her even from advocating such a boycott given that such speech could be seen as “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel.”

The “oath” is now part of the Texas Government Code.  

The teacher said that she could not honestly sign the oath because she and her family  have made the decision to refuse to purchase goods from Israel or the occupied West Bank. She herself is not a leader of any political movement but she has occasionally attended meetings promoting the global BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions)  movement calling for the end of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

It sounds weird doesn’t it, firing an experienced language therapy specialist who works with small children. She is being punished but so are the children from 3 to 11 year old, she helps.

The mother of 4 US born childen,  Bahia Amawi, born in Austria, has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years. She fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic). The school district she has worked in has a  growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. Wouldn’t you think that the district school officials would be determined to hold on to her?

But don’t blame them. The  Texas law, carefully worded to prevent loopholes, has tied their hands.

But wait , there is more.

In the Texan town of Dickinson, devastated by hurricane Harvey in 2017 , hurricane victims had to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel, in exchange for life-saving humanitarian aid.

Texas! There must be something weird about Texas! The US champions free speech doesn’t it? It’s in the American Constitution!

No, it’s not just Texas. Other states have passed or are working on anti-boycott Israel legislation.

If the US political scene today resembles Orwellian 1984, then who is Big Brother?

It’s multi-billionaire Las Vegas gambling mogul, Sheldon Adelson. He has set up a ‘Maccabee Task Force’ , raising millions to pressure influential legal , media, academic, political  Americans to oppose supporters of BDS.

Journalist Ramzy Baroud  has commented,

“But this is the sad state of democracy in the US at the moment, where the interests of a relatively small, distant country are made the centerpiece of US government policies, at home or abroad.

Israel’s wealthy supporters are working hand in hand with Israel’s influential lobby groups in Washington DC, but also at state, and even city levels to make the boycott of Israel punishable by law.

Many US politicians are answering the unreasonable lobby call of criminalizing political dissent throughout the country. While in reality many of them couldn’t care less or even truly understand the nature of the debate concerning BDS, they are willing to go the extra mile (as in violating the sanctity of their own democratic system) to win lobby favors or to, at least avoid their wrath.”

We assume that such a situation would  never happen here in New Zealand. Kiwis are free to speak in support of BDS of Israel, aren ‘t we?

But do our political leaders have to go to Washington and make speeches  about our ‘shared values’? I’m thinking of Winston Peters’ recent jaunt there. ‘Shared values’ from a political leader means ‘shared values’ at the political elite level, the regime level.

At a grass roots level, who do we Kiwis ‘share values’ with?

How about with Bahia Amawi !


Lois Griffiths is a human rights activist


  1. This is part of an ongoing story.
    Everyday more examples turn up.
    It’s getting worse.
    I have just read that the state of Maryland will now require contractors wanting to do business with the State , wanting to provide services or goods, must effectively first pledge loyalty to Israel.

    Years ago, a Palestinian academic told us that the US was a colony of Israel’s.

    I see what he meant.

  2. Given the propensity for our governments of all shades (this lot included) to bend over for the bringers of democracy to oil bearing countries. A sly adjustment to our laws re. BDS would not surprise me at all.

  3. BDS Is the best non-violent resistance method employed so far and it must be working else why would the US and Israel take such draconian measures as to make it illegal to even support BDS at a school teacher that teaches school kids with learning disabilities it’s just mind boggling.

  4. A very valuable heads up for all of us, Lois. This Orwellian US silencing of free speech ensures further suffering for the victims of racist Zionism. The US is financing people, such as Avi Dichter, Chair of the Defence Committee at the Israeli Parliament, who say things like: “The Israeli army has enough bullets for every Palestinian.” He is also a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party.

    Israel’s Education Minister and Diaspora Affairs Minister, Naftali Bennett, says: “My formula is the maximum amount of land with the minimum amount of Palestinians.” Donald Trump boasts: “We give Israel 4.5 billion a year. And we give frankly a lot more than that if you look at the books.” Meanwhile, Palestinian farmland is being lost to illegal Israeli settlers who use flocks of sheep to take over Palestinian land, with at least 10 settlement outposts throughout the West Bank now having been built on land thus expropriated, with the help of Israeli Government agencies.

    Israel is, right now, drastically reducing even further the number of Palestinian farmers permitted to work their own land – land that has been trapped between Israel’s annexation Wall and the Green Line. Shared values? It’s time Winston Peters spoke clearly about where he believes New Zealand stands regarding holding Israel to account. He could start by answering the questions posed on The Daily Blog at:

  5. Yes
    Winston Peters treats us as fools.
    This was my email to him when the Freedom Flotilla boat, Al Awda, was boarded in international waters by Israeli forces.

    “Dear Mr Peters
    Mike Treen is the National Director of the Unite Union, and a veteran
    human rights defender. and our New Zealand representative on the
    international Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.
    He pre-recorded this urgent SOS message (below) in the advent of the
    Freedom Flotilla boat, the Al Awda, being hijacked by Israeli forces.

    I implore you to listen to this youtube clip and demand the Israeli
    government immediately release all flotilla participants and ensure
    the cargo of medical aid is promptly delivered to Gaza.”

    This was his reply.
    “Thank you for your email of 30 July 2018.
    New Zealand believes the situation in Gaza is unsustainable, and has consistently called for improved access for humanitarian and other essential supplies into Gaza. In order for this to occur, we believe that Israel’s legitimate security concerns will need to be fully addressed.

    The New Zealand Embassy in Ankara, responsible for Israel, provided consular assistance to Mr Treen. We have been advised that Mr Treen is now on his way back to New Zealand. Information on the assistance that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade can provide to New Zealanders detained overseas is available at

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to advise against all travel to Gaza. This includes any attempt to enter Gaza by sea in breach of Israeli navy restrictions or participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade. A full copy of the travel advisory is available here”

    Yours sincerely
    Rt Hon Winston Peters
    Minister of Foreign Affairs

  6. This response from Winston Peters is so revealing, Brigid. It amounts to support for Israel and contempt for the Palestinian people. Our Foreign Affairs Minister’s call for Israel’s security to be the principal consideration, while showing not the slightest regard for the security of Palestinians, is shameful. It is they in Gaza who are having their environment, economy and health cruelly undermined by Israel’s merciless military blockade, and it is Israel that is imposing a ruthless and ruinous military dictatorship over Palestinians in the West Bank. Even though the United Nations has condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Winston Peters sides with Israel and has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advise against any attempt to oppose what the Ministry calls “Israeli navy restrictions” as well as “any attempt to break the naval blockade”. So while the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) deplores Israel’s blockade for inflicting a dire humanitarian situation upon the people of Gaza, the only concern of Winston Peters is for the ‘security’ of the perpetrator, Israel. It is time for the Minister to act on behalf of New Zealanders by sharing with the rest of humanity our concern for the values of international humanitarian law.

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