All Things Israel

 

I am concerned that the Alameda City Council’s recent proclamation recognizing May as Jewish American History Month is being used to conflate Jewish heritage with all things Israel.

Among other manifestations of support for the government of Israel, the proclamation features, as its most prominent paragraph, the full introduction to AB 2844. Originally known as the “Anti-BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] Bill, AB 2844 called for blacklisting any entity that supported BDS from doing business with the state of California. 

Such entities would have included businesses, many churches, unions and individuals who, as a matter of conscience, refrain from doing business with companies or institutions that profit from Israel’s military occupation and other human-rights violations. 

More than 100 peace and justice groups across California formed a coalition to protest the bill, with many Jews part of the coalition. The ACLU and every civil rights legal organization that weighed in warned that political boycott is recognized by the Supreme Court as protected speech of the highest order. The bill as written would violate the First Amendment. 

Accordingly, the bill was repeatedly revised; the title of “anti-BDS,” along with all sanctions against supporters of BDS, were stricken from the text. The legislature settled on a final bill to appease the Israel-aligned proponents of the bill who were desperate to come up with something that showed support for Israel and denigrated BDS. The revised bill simply reiterates existing laws prohibiting state contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, religion and other protected categories. 

The bill then goes on to imply that BDS supporters would likely discriminate against Jewish people. It is that sham bill, teetering on the edge of unconstitutionality by stigmatizing, if not forbidding, political expression that the Alameda City Council chose to highlight in its proclamation recognizing Jewish heritage.

Silencing criticism or chilling honest discussion and outrage about the very real suffering we see in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank is a serious affront to our constitutional rights, to say nothing of the need to speak out against human-rights abuses everywhere if we can ever hope to see change.  

That the Israeli Government continues to deliberately kill and maim the thousands of Palestinians who are opposing their forceful confinement to the world’s largest concentration camp that is Gaza, is wrong. Israel’s murderous attacks on those demonstrators have been condemned by the United Nations and a myriad of human rights organizations. 

Many readers do not know that on May 15, the day that Israel was celebrating 70 years since the start of its nation, their cousins, the Palestinian people, were commemorating 70 years since Nakba, the catastrophe when more than 700,000 of their people left or were driven from their homes in 1948. Our elected officials never paused to make any reference to this sad truth. 

I encourage all people to speak out and advocate for what in any other context would make perfect sense, equality and justice for all in Palestine and Israel.

Please join me tonight, Thursday, May 31, at 6 p.m. for a presentation and question-and-answer session titled “Palestinian Voices: On Gaza and Jerusalem” at Buena Vista United Methodist Church, 2311 Buena Vista Ave., Alameda. The event is cosponsored by Friends of Wadi Foquin, Eastwind Books, AROC, MECA and JVP Bay Area chapter. RSVP at https://
palestinian-voices-on-gaza-and-jerusalem.eventbrite.com.