L.A. Launches Nation's First Israel Divestment Campaign

By Linda Milazzo
L.A. Progressive
September 11, 2010

http://www.laprogressive.com/the-middle-east/israel-divestment-campaign/

On April 1, 2010, in a no-holds-barred interview with
the Christian Science Monitor, Israeli peacemaker
Jonathan Ben Artzi, a PhD candidate at Brown University
and nephew to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, made clear his belief that equality and
social justice will prevail in Israel when the
government and people of the United States adopt a no-
tolerance stance toward Israel's abuse of Palestinians.
Ben Artzi, a ninth generation Israeli who's seen a
lifetime of Israel's abuse of Palestinians, declared:

   "Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you when
    enough is enough. As they did with South Africa two
    decades ago, concerned citizens across the US can
    make a difference by encouraging Washington to get
    the message to Israel that this cannot continue."

Jonathan's reference to South Africa is a testament to
the powerful roll played by valiant Americans who
participated in protests, boycotts and divestment
actions nationwide, most between 1984 and 1989, which
ultimately forced the white minority South African
government to relinquish control over its oppressed
Black majority.

Ben Artzi, a man of conscience and compassion, served
18 months in prison for refusing his mandatory service
in Israel's military. Ben Artzi goes on to say:

   "If Americans truly are our friends, they should
    shake us up and take away the keys, because right
    now we are driving drunk, and without this wake-up
    call, we will soon find ourselves in the ditch of
    an undemocratic, doomed state."

This week, Jonathan Ben Artzi should be pleased to know
that a concerned and energized coalition of Americans
has heeded the call to rescue out of control Israel
from driving deeper into its ditch.

On Wednesday, September 8th, at a noon press conference
in Los Angeles in front of the Israeli Consulate, the
California Israel Divestment Campaign, a culturally
diverse group of compassionate Americans announced the
launch of California ballot initiative 10-0020 to
require public employee systems to divest from certain
business activities in Israel. In its first official
announcement, the California Israel Divestment Campaign
(IDC) delivered the following explanation:

   "Although California has adopted policies requiring
    divestment from Sudan, Iran and other nations, this
    is the first ballot measure in the nation aimed at
    changing Israeli policies through divestment by
    State agencies. It directs California's large
    public employee and teacher pension funds to be
    consistent with their responsible investing
    policies and to divest from companies that violate
    the human rights of Palestinians.

    The description provided by the office of the
    Attorney General when it approved the measure for
    circulation says that the initiative"prohibits
    state retirement funds from investing in companies
    engaged in certain business activities in Israel."

    According to Chris Yatooma, the official proponent
    of the initiative,"Our government has done nothing
    to end Israel's brutal occupation and violation of
    internationally recognized human rights, UN
    Resolutions and the Geneva Conventions." In fact,
    as campaign organizer Yael Korin, notes,"our tax
    dollars now help fund these violations of human
    rights to the tune of more than $3 billion a year
    in grants, adding up to a staggering $106 billion
    over the past five decades."

   "California retirement funds have their own
    disturbing record," said local campaign organizer
    Sherna Gluck, a member of the Public Employee
    Retirement System (PERS)."Our public retirement
    systems have more than $1.5 billion invested in at
    least eight companies that provide war materials
    and services used in violation of internationally
    recognized human rights, including support for the
    illegal Israeli settlements and the "Separation
    Wall."

For over four decades, since the 1967 Six Day War,
propagandized as a victorious miracle on par with David
v. Goliath, Americans have ingested a distorted media
diet of Israelis portrayed as victims and Palestinians
portrayed as villains. But with the launch of domestic
and international outlets for independent journalism
and new media, the truth is now accessible. More and
more Americans have come to realize that Israelis are
the oppressors and Palestinians are the oppressed. In
addition, more and more Americans are learning that the
relationship between the United States and Israel is
not really in America's best interests -- a previously
untenable concept.

What is occurring as a result of Americans' new
knowledge is their widespread anger over being misled
for so long. Many Americans, myself included, feel a
sense of guilt at being unwitting pawns in Israel's
forty-year occupation and systematic torture,
deprivation, and dare I say, ethnic cleansing of
Palestinians. Many Americans are further incensed that
our legislators have voted annually to award Israel, a
wealthy and thriving nation, 3 billion of our tax
dollars which go directly into its military.

Fortunately there are ways to fight back against this
tyranny in which we Americans have been unwitting
pawns. The launch of the California Israel Divestment
Campaign is a powerful weapon to that end. Divestment
worked well in defeating apartheid in South Africa.
Indeed, South Africa's own Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a
principal endorser of this new Israel Divestment
Campaign, said this of the campaign on August 22nd:

   "We defeated apartheid nonviolently because the
    international community agreed to support the
    disinvestment in apartheid campaign. A similar
    campaign can help to bring peace in the Middle East
    and do so nonviolently."

This much beloved Nobel Laureate is correct. As is
Nobel Laureate and Belfast peacemaker, Mairead Maguire,
who is also an endorser.

Each day the momentum is building for this divestment
campaign. The list of individuals and organizations
that support this effort, which requires the state
public retirement funds (PERS and STRS) to divest from
companies that provide products or services
contributing to the construction or maintenance of
Israeli settlements and/or the Separation Wall in the
Palestinian Territories; and/or military supplies,
equipment and services to the State of Israel that are
used by the military and/or police in violation of
internationally recognized human rights, as determined
by the UN and NGOS, is growing ever larger. And this is
just the beginning. This is the just the first
divestment launch in California. Similar launches in
other California cities are soon to come.

Even though the goal to divest is one of justice and
human rights, it will take much hard work to achieve.
At least 434,000 registered California voters must sign
a petition to qualify the measure for the statewide
ballot. Petitions should be ready for signature
gathering in mid-September 2010, after which there will
be five months to gather the required signatures. If
the requisite number of signatures is gathered, the
initiative will appear on the next statewide ballot
after March, 2011.

If a majority of voters support the measure, it becomes
California law and the public retirement systems in
California will have to sell their stocks (divest) in
those companies that provide goods and services to
Israel which violate UN Resolutions, the Geneva
Conventions, and international rules of human rights.
It is important to note that the Initiative will in no
way jeopardize the pension benefits of PERS and STRS
members.

California is frequently the national leader. With this
divestment campaign, Californians are poised to spark a
state-by-state divestiture movement to parallel the
anti-Apartheid campaign that helped defeat the
oppressive rule in South Africa. To participate, please
visit here. http://www.israeldivestmentcampaign.org/

To underscore the passion and humanity of the Israel
Divestment Campaign, Marcy Winograd, former candidate
for California's 36th Congressional District, offers
this personal and poignant explanation for her own
participation:

   "Today I lend my name and my support to a crucial
    ballot measure calling for divestiture in companies
    that aid the Israeli occupation of Palestine and
    perpetuate the brutal blockade of over a million
    people, half of them children, in the ever-more
    crowded Gaza strip.

    As a Jewish woman of conscience, as a teacher who
    contributes to the California State Teacher
    Retirement System, I do not want my name, nor the
    fruits of my labor supporting companies that
    collude with the government of Israel to steal
    Palestinian land, bulldoze Palestinian homes,

    or imprison those in Gaza routinely denied access
    to clean water and medicine.

    Now is the time for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and
    all believers, be they believers in a higher power
    or simply in the power of love, to stand for human
    rights and to demand that our public institutions,
    like CALSTRS and CALPRS, sell stock in corporations
    that profit off of misery in the West Bank, East
    Jerusalem, and Gaza -- making us all less safe.

    I urge my fellow teachers to echo my call. Let us
    divest of our stock in Caterpillar, which makes
    bullet proof tractors that slice Palestinian homes
    to ribbons in minutes. Let us divest of General
    Electric that builds the weapons that terrorize the
    next generation in Gaza. Let us give the people of
    our great golden state, California, an opportunity
    to promote peace by saying NO to companies involved
    in ever-expanding settlements that erase the
    beautiful olive trees of Palestine, only to
    generate more hatred.

    In the name of peace, of dignity, of equal rights, 
    let us collect enough signatures to put this measure on
    the ballot and join a global movement calling for
    divestiture.

    Thank you, my friends, for your courage."

You can do this! You should do this!

_____________________________________________

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