“I thought I was a free man”: Engineer fighting Texas ban on Israeli boycotts | Texas


NSOr for over 20 years, Texas civil engineer Rasmy Hassouna was a contractor in the City of Houston. Hassouna consulted with the city about the volatility of the soil in the nearby Gulf of Mexico. This is a very necessary service to assess the structural stability of homes and other buildings.

He was preparing to renew his contract with the government when certain legal provisions caught his eye. It is a clause that effectively prohibits him or his company, A & R Engineering and Testing, Inc from protesting the country. Israel Or that product as long as his company is a partner in the City of Houston.

It was a big shock to Hassona, a 59-year-old proud Palestinian American.

“I came here and thought I was a free man. Unless I harm someone, what I’m doing and what I’m saying isn’t anyone’s job,” he said. Told the Guardian. “Did you lie all the time? If you don’t want to buy anything at Walmart, who will tell you not to shop at Walmart? Why do I have to pledge allegiance to foreign countries? ? “

However, Hassona’s reaction did not stop with anger.he Take actionSimilar provisions spread throughout the United States that have filed proceedings against Texas law, for example, trying to prevent government contractors from boycotting Israel, are found in more than 25 US states. Alongside the Arkansas Times, A & R Engineering and Testing Inc is currently one of two companies fighting this type of law in the country.

Hassouna Proceedings – On behalf of him By the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – heard in federal court on Tuesday, it is based on the idea that such a law violates freedom of speech. If determined unconstitutional, the 2019 Israeli boycott ban will be illegal in Texas.

But Hassouna’s decision to sue is not without its price. It may cost him a significant amount of his annual income, his lawyer said.

“They didn’t rely on Gaza’s Rasmy Hassona, whose family is in great distress. He has the right to boycott any entity they desire, whether foreign or domestic, to Americans. That’s what he does – put his money in his mouth, “said Gadeir Abbas, CAIR’s senior litigation lawyer on behalf of Hassouna.

Free Palestinian supporters in Columbus, Ohio, protested Israel’s occupation of Palestine and proposed a boycott of companies and commodities to support Israel on June 12, 2021. Photo: Stephen Zenner / SOPA Images / REX / Shutterstock

Hassona first set foot in the United States in 1988. Like many immigrants, Hassona’s first experience in the United States was at JFK Airport in New York. But his final destination was the South Dakota Mining Technical School, where he planned to study civil engineering. “No matter how long it took or how hard I tried, I kept aiming for my goals,” he said.

As a Palestinian under Israeli occupation, Hassona did not claim citizenship, so it is necessary to obtain permission from Israeli authorities to leave Gaza’s home, which is described as an open-air prison by humanitarian organizations and politicians. was.

“For almost two months every day, I left home and took a taxi to the center of Gaza. I gave [Israeli officials] My government application, my ID. I went to the gate and waited from 7am to 5pm. You are just standing there and watching June and July in the sun. “

Two months later, Hassouna finally secured permission to travel to the United States for college studies. No passport was issued because Palestine was not recognized as a country, but Israeli travel documents were issued that confused customs authorities at every stage of the journey.

When it was time for Hassona to leave for the United States, his neighborhood in Gaza was placed under a curfew. This meant that if he was supposed to make his flight, he had to escape under the night cover. He remembered towing his luggage and walking five miles behind his father to his cousin’s house, just outside the designated curfew area. It was the last time I saw his father who died before they could meet again.

Hassouna’s college experience was similar to that of most American students. He remembered living with three roommates and surviving on a modest salary as a teaching assistant.

After graduation, Hassona moved to Houston and Texas, August 1992. Although he had a comprehensive background in his field, Hassouna’s early career was uncertain and confusing. Before he became a technician, he had a strange job at StopNGo gas stations and convenience stores.

“At that time, I worked 11-7 at a convenience store and 8-5 at a company. One of my students. [from South Dakota] My boss made 3-4 times what I was making. She often came and asked me for advice. “

Finally, he was hired for an engineering position at another company with a starting salary of $ 24,000. He explained that this was half what most engineers were doing at the time.

Since then, Hassona has come a long way. Along the way, he got married and had two now teenage sons. His mother died a few years after his father, but due to Gaza’s travel and visa restrictions, Hassona was unable to meet her or attend the funeral. In 2005, Hassona became an American citizen. His place of birth on his certificate of citizenship read the statement he made in question, “Israel.”

“I went to the woman who was handing out the certificate and told her she didn’t want to put Israel in the certificate. She went to the immigration center and told me they would take care of it. I explained to them that my place of birth was not Israel, but the Gaza Strip in Palestine. They told me “Palestine was not in the system.”

Hassona returned the certificate to the Immigration Bureau and asked her to return the green card. He explained that he did not want to be a citizen more than he was designated as an Israeli by birth. After much deliberation, the Immigration Bureau acknowledged and mailed him a new certificate stating the place of birth labeled “Gaza Strip”.

In 1999, he and his friend Alfred founded their own company, A & R (Alfred and Rasmy) Engineering. Together, they secured contract work for the City of Houston. About 25 years later, Alfred sold the company’s shares to Hassona. Hassona is currently a sole proprietor.

Currently, Hassona’s loyalty to her hometown is being tested. After reading the latest city contract, he wrote to the city, asking him to remove the Israeli boycott ban from the contract, claiming that it was a constitutional right to boycott Israel if he wished. bottom. City officials said it was out of their control.

Now it’s in the hands of the judge. If things don’t go the way of Hassona, he said he’s more than ready to suffer the financial consequences.

“I want to continue working with the city and other government agencies. The problem is that I want to do it without compromising freedom and dignity,” he said.

“I thought I was a free man”: Engineer fighting Texas ban on Israeli boycotts | Texas

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