Protecting the Right to Boycott Israel: A Foreign Affairs Preemption Approach to Striking Down State Anti-BDS Laws

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Ariel Sheffey, J.D. Candidate 2024, Columbia Law School

Legal challenges against the constitutionality of state anti-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) laws are slowly making their way through United States circuit courts, and, so far, these challenges have rested largely on First Amendment grounds. This Note explores the viability of an alternative approach: challenging the constitutionality of state anti-BDS laws under the doctrine of foreign affairs preemption. Ultimately, this Note concludes that state anti-BDS laws pose a sufficient intrusion into foreign affairs so as to be rendered unconstitutional by the doctrine of foreign affairs preemption. Nonetheless, before pursuing this approach in court, litigators and advocates should consider how the precedent might implicate the goals of human rights activists in the long run, particularly regarding the abilities of state governments themselves to mobilize against foreign countries committing human rights violations.