Saturday, October 2, 2010

The California BDS Initiative-- Anti-Peace and Unjust

The BDS movement is attempting to take its jihad-in-human-rights-clothing program to the California electorate sometime next year. Taking advantage of California's initiative process, they are trying to gather enough signatures to qualify an Israel divestment initiative for one of 2011's statewide elections.

initiative itself is standard BDS text-- the language of "human rights" and "international law", including the ever-present reference to UN Resolution 194 and the false claim that this resolution gives descendants of Arab refugees from the 1947-8 war the "right" to force Israel to repatriate them.

We know this initiative, even if it qualifies for the ballot, won't pass. Even the organizers know it won't pass. But they have learned quite well about the "Big Lie", and they are eager for the chance to bring it to the big stage.

Who is behind this? A resident of Sacramento named Chris Yatooma and his group, the Sacramento BDS organization. A casual look at their website tells you everything you need to know about them They link to all of the usual players in the anti-Israel movement: the Free Gaza movement that wants to allow the Hamas regime to import Iranian missiles without interference; to the If Americans Knew website of Alison Weir, whose assocation with neo-Nazis alarm neither her nor her friends in the BDS movement; to Sabeel, the Arab Christian group that promotes an anti-Semitic "replacement theology"-- that its form of Christianity has essentially replaced Judaism, and it's just the stubbornness of Jews that insist on their own nationhood that stands in the way of peace; to the fringe extremists of Jewish Voice for Peace ,which long ago abandoned the fig-leaf that they don't take any position for or against a state for the Jewish people and has repeatedly participated in anti-Israel demonstrations in the Bay Area; and of course to the International Solidarity Movement, which recruits naive young adults to help shelter terrorist groups (and possibly worse, as multiple reports of rape of young women volunteers in the West Bank have surfaced). In short, not a single group that supports peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine. Yet their pitch to get people to sign the petition is "Can you spare 15 seconds to support peace in the Middle East?"

As to the initiative itself, the clause that would be enacted states as follows:
"The CalPERS Board of Administration and the CalSTRS Teachers Retirement Board shall examine their respective investment funds within six months of passage of this initiative. Upon completion of this six month period, they shall publicly identify and list any investments in companies that provide products or services that contribute to the construction or maintenance of Israeli settlements and/or the Separation Wall in the Palestinian Territories or provide military supplies, equipment and services to the State of Israel. "
(emphasis mine)

There is no provision that states that this would then become inoperative upon the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, or upon a unilateral Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 lines. Any company that provides any item used by the Israel Defense Forces is the target for divestment. Presumably this could also include companies such as Domino's Pizza and Coca Cola that provide food to IDF soldiers. So, just as the BDS movement insists that BDS activities must continue until a Jewish state allows itself to be demographically eliminated by the forced repatriation of descendants of Palestinian refugees, the BDS initiative requires that divestment be targeted at any military self-defense of the Jewish state--forever.

[Note that in California's Divest from Iran law, the language includes a sunset clause:

m) This section shall cease to be operative if both of the following apply:

(1) Iran is removed from the United States Department of State’s list of countries that have been determined to repeatedly provide support for acts of international terrorism.

(2) Pursuant to Public Law 104-172, as amended, the President of the United States determines and certifies to the appropriate committee of the Congress of the United States that Iran has ceased its efforts to design, develop, manufacture, or acquire a nuclear explosive device or related materials and technology."]

Yatooma and his BDS group have been trying to get attention and validation for this extremist effort by asking the Sacramento Jewish Community Relations Council for a debate on the initiative as well as the proposed anti-Israel boycott at the Sacramento Food Cooperative. Barry Broad, the chair of the Sacramento JCRC, had a very straightforward response which I am happy to share with his permission:

"Mr. Yatooma:

Representatives of your group, the “Sacramento BDS Working Group,” publicly stated on more than one occasion in testimony before the Coop Board that “Jewish money controls the government and media.” Another one of your activists, Dan Bacher, has posted a “historical revisionist” (as in Neo-Nazi) rant on a Democratic Party website (to the extreme consternation of the Democratic Party). Such statements are pure anti-Semitism and a central feature of historical anti-Semitism going back to the nineteenth century—if not further. That your group makes no effort to restrain, much less repudiate, openly anti-Semitic remarks made by your own chosen spokespersons indicates that anti-Semitism is a core value of your organization.

In short, we don’t debate racists. We fight them, whether their hatred is aimed at us or any other racial or ethnic minority. As such, we look forward to defeating the BDS effort at the Coop."

Agreed. We don't legitimize the anti-Semitism at the core of the BDS movement. So what, then, should we do about this?

We educate the public-- we show up where they will be gathering signatures and talk about what this initiative is really about. Our community organizations need to do outreach via interfaith groups, to educate those who our partners in other ventures. At the same time, we should tell those churches who support this contemptible project that we will not be able to work with them in other arenas.

We educate our political leaders-- we meet with them to ensure that they understand the intent of this measure and that they don't add their names in support. We show them that the entire political spectrum of the Jewish community (aside from fringe extremists like JVP) opposes divestment-- even left-wing groups such as J Street and the New Israel Fund.

And, of course, we buy Israeli goods.


  1. In the trainings for this initiative, participants are told to promote this initiative by telling potential signatories, "This isn't about divesting from Israel. This is about divesting from countries that benefit from the Occupation". Yet, this email from activist and organizer Mazen Almoukdad chortles "We are sure you would like to be part of making history - California becoming the first State to divest from Israel.". Just another aspect of the inherent hypocracy in this movement.

    His email follows:

    We would like to invite you to our meetings in regard to a grassroots California initiative - "the Israel Divestment Campaign" (IDC) that calls for divestment of CA Public Employees retirement funds from companies doing business in Israel. This initiative is now approved by the CA State Attorney General and requires us to collect a minimum of 433,000 signatures (from fellow Californians) to make this a ballot issue in 2011. We now have until Jan 2011 to accomplish this goal. We are sure you would like to be part of making history - California becoming the first State to divest from Israel. Learn more at

    The meetings will be at:

    800 South Brookhurst St. Ste. 2E
    Anaheim, CA 92804

    Friday 10/22/2010 an 10/29/2010
    Time 7:00 pm

    For more information, please call:


    Best Regards,

    Mazen Almoukdad

  2. On Friday, Nov. 12 Andy Griggs from So. Cal. led a meeting at the Oakland offices of the OEA. He confessed the petition gathering movement in the Bay area was falling far behind their expectations, no local group had taken responsibility for the project and that they had less than $5,000 in the bank. Many inside and outside the movement feel it is doomed to failure