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Campaign Aims to Divest State Funds From Corporations Enabling Israeli Occupation By Pat and Samir Twair

STAFF PHOTO S. TWAIR

The Israel Divestment Campaign (IDC) was launched Sept. 8 with the ceremonial signing of a giant petition in front of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. First to sign was Chris Yatooma, an Iraqi-American activist who decided that if state politicians won’t act on a gross injustice, voters should take matters into their own hands and democratically establish a ballot measure. That’s where the 434,000 signatures come in, so the IDC is fanning out into most of California’s 58 counties and college campuses to collect valid voters’ names. Divestment targets include United Technologies, the corporation that produces Blackhawk helicopters for the Israeli military to attack Palestinian cities, refugee camps and villages. STRS has $478.6 million and PERS $132 million invested in UT, which also produces engines for Israel’s F-15 and F-16 aircraft which systematically attack Palestinians. Launching a petition drive for a California ballot General Electric is another ofinitiative to divest state pension funds from corpo- fender, currently benefitting from rations that profit from Israel’s occupation of Pales- $179.7 million in STRS funds and tine are (l-r) Shakeel Syed, Rev. DarELL T. Weist $326.8 million from PERS. GE supand Dick Platkin. plies the propulsion systems for Isf 434,000 signatures of registered voters rael’s AH-64 Apache assault helicopters and can be collected by Jan. 31, California engines for other Israeli military aircraft. Caterpillar, which holds $62.4 million of will become the first state in the nation with a ballot measure to divest state pub- STRS funds and $52.7 million of PERS lic employee and teacher pension funds funds, produces bulldozers that destroy from corporations that violate the human Palestinian homes, orchards and olive groves. Its equipment is also used to clear rights of Palestinians. When the state attorney general’s office Palestinian land for the erection of Israel’s approved the measure for circulation, it illegal settlements and apartheid wall. stated the initiative “prohibits state retire- Protests at Caterpillar stockholder meetment funds from investing in companies ings, and even the killing of Rachel Corrie, engaged in certain business activities in Is- who was crushed to death by an IDF-drirael.” The targeted funds account for more ven Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza, have not than $1.5 billion of California’s public em- moved the conscience of stockholders and ployees (PERS) and teachers (STRS) pen- executives to stop shipments to Israel. Motorola, which holds $63.55 million sion funds invested in corporations that provide materials for the construction or from STRS and $45.2 million from PERS, maintenance of Israeli settlements or that provides radar systems for security at illeprovide military supplies and services to gal settlements on the West Bank and provides the Israeli military with a “Mountain Israel. Rose” cell phone communication system. ITT, in which STRS has invested $38.3 Pat and Samir Twair are free-lance journalmillion and PERS $19.2 million, provides ists based in Los Angeles.

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THE WASHINGTON REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS

Southern California Chronicle the Israeli military with parts for night vision goggles used by pilots and helicopter crews when attacking defenseless Palestinian refugee camps and towns at night. Other corporations on the IDC divestment list are Northrop Grumman, Terex, Veolia and Elbit Systems. At the Sept. 8 ceremony, Dick Platkin of L.A. Jews for Peace read a statement from Marcy Winograd, who challenged pro-Israel Rep. Jane Harman in California’s June Democratic primary. It stated in part: “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.” For more information, visit <www.Israelidivestmentcampaign.org>.

Multimedia “Beyond Borders” Exhibit A unique art exhibit combining music, film screenings, book signings and a monologue by Middle Eastern artists was presented for two days at the 2nd City Council Gallery and Performance Space in Long Beach. Several hundred guests arrived Oct. 9 for two opening receptions celebrating artistic expressions of Arab Americans. “Beyond Borders” was the theme selected for the ambitious program showcasing the diverse talents of artists working to connect their cultural roots in the Middle East with their lives in the West. Artist Reem Hammad was curator of the exhibition representing paintings and sculptures of 21 artists. Carole Choucair Ouejian was the chairwoman. The House of Lebanon sponsored the event. A highlight of the opening ceremony was a solo performance by Rosanna Cacace enacting a scene from her “Three Roses of Lebanon,” a monologue presenting three women united by love and divided by old traditions. Even though the scheduled performance by acclaimed musician Naser Musa was cancelled at the last minute due to illness, DECEMBER 2010

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs  
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs  

Published to help provide the American public with balanced and accurate information concerning U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states.