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Jewish Journal

Proposed Calif. Ballot Initiative Would Seek Divestment From Israel

by Idan Ivri, Contributing Writer

March 29, 2010 | 4:15 pm

A Sacramento man, Chris Yatooma, has drafted a state initiative that would prevent California public pension funds such as the Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) from investing in any companies with business relations with Israel. To qualify as a proposition on the Nov. 2 ballot, this divestment initiative needs 433,971 signatures by Aug. 12.

The initiative declares that California investment in Israel is “unconscionable” because Israel has “maintained a brutal military occupation in Palestine,” “[s]ponsored numerous acts of terror against Palestinians” and “denies millions of Palestinian Arabs a ... right of return to historic Palestine.”  As a result, public pension funds would be forced to “liquidate” their investments in companies engaging in commerce with Israel.  For the same reasons, the initiative also asks the federal government to suspend foreign aid to Israel.

Using an almost literary tone, the initiative cites Nelson Mandela and makes an analogy between the plight of black South Africans under apartheid as “parallel” to that of Palestinians today. Though the initiative identifies the state of Israel as the perpetrator of this oppression, it also makes generalizations about the entire “Jewish nation.” For example, the initiative says that it is “ironic” that a nation that has spent “2,000 years suffering” from prejudice would now engage in “similarly shameful conduct.”

Yatooma’s organization in support of this initiative is named the srael Divestiture Forum or IDF, the same acronym commonly associated with the Israel Defense Forces.  Yatooma declined the Jewish Journal’s request for an interview at this time, so it is not clear how Yatooma’s signature gatherers intend to use this acronym in their campaign.

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