A newly introduced bill by California State Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, seeks to forbid all state agencies in California from contracting with companies “engaging in boycotts based on race, color, religion, gender or nationality,” in support of California’s long history of trading with Israel.
Anti-Semitism runs deeply in California government, including inside the taxpayer-funded University of California system, and the state retirement systems.
Allen’s bill is aimed directly at the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), and the State of Israel. AB 1551, The California-Israel Commerce Protection Act, will require the State of California to divest from companies that boycott Israel.
CalPERS and CalSTRS have boycotted Israeli investments, and University of California campuses openly supported the Palestinian boycott of Israel.
Even student governments at UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Irvine have endorsed divestment and sanctions of Israel.
If adopted, Assemblyman Allen said the bill would update the 1994 California code of Prohibited Business Arrangements [16649.80 – 16649.95] which says, “state trust moneys shall not be used to make additional or new investments or to renew existing investments in business firms that engage in discriminatory business practices in furtherance of or in compliance with the Arab League’s economic boycott of Israel.”
The Arab Boycott of Israel began before Israel was even a state, and effectively said: “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.” As the years passed, the boycott was expanded in an attempt to prevent any trade between Arab countries and international companies that traded with Israel.
“California strongly opposes discrimination,” Allen said in an interview. “Of particular concern lately is the fact that boycotts of entities and individuals affiliated with specific countries can amount to ethnic, religious, racial and/or national origin discrimination.”
“No group better demonstrates this fact than the BDS movement, whose use of false, demonizing and delegitimizing propaganda against the State of Israel has become a pretext for the expression of anti-Jewish bigotry,” Allen said.
Allen said the legislatures of South Carolina and Illinois have already passed laws defending trade relations with Israel, and authorize divestment from BDS companies. Many other states are in the process.
“The United States and Israel have historically stood together as allies due to our unique bond founded on shared values, a bilateral trade relationship, and our unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy,” Allen said. “Any company that is intentionally inflicting economic harm upon California’s trading partners weaken our ability to conduct business and harm the vital economic interests of our state. Further, boycotts of countries often derive from ethnic, religious, racial, or nationality discrimination, which directly contradicts the values of California citizens.”
In March 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed an important agreement to develop joint projects and conduct mutually beneficial research in California and Israel.
Allen said Israel is an invaluable trader to California in technological advances, as well as water technology. Intel, CISCO and many other IT companies work with Israeli tech companies. Israeli tech companies have been working with Los Angeles on important drought issues. “These are important partnerships that should be protected,” Allen said.
In 2014, California exported more than $2.3 billion in goods to Israel, making it the state’s 18th largest export destination. Manufactured commodities are the largest export category for California, with over $1.6 billion, representing nearly 70 percent of all exports to Israel.
“Israel is recognized around the world as the strongest democratically-elected government in the Middle East, which is one of the many reasons the nation’s relationship with the United States is imperative to the security and strength of California,” said Assemblyman Allen. “It is unconscionable for our state to do business with companies that play politics and boycott our critical allies. California has developed long-standing social, political, and economic partnerships with the State of Israel that should not be cast aside by politicians.”
University and Student Anti-Semitism
A student at UCLA, who also works for the campus, recently made horrific anti-Semitic comments on a Facebook post by UCLA alumna Hollywood actress Mayim Bialik. UCLA student Arielle Mokhtarzadeh wrote about it in The Daily Bruin, Dec. 26, 2015.
“She makes dehumanizing and stereotypical allegations about Jews and the power of the ‘Jewish collective,’ saying, ‘You’re f—ing trolls, armchair politicians who do nothing but pick your nose, scratch your a– … you come into our communities and destroy our small businesses,’” Mokhtarzadeh wrote. “’Go back to Israel, then f—ing Zionist pigs. You don’t belong here either, this land belongs to the indigenous people who were already here. Since you’re so superior, go murder some Palestinian children so you can have their parents arrested and move into their home. Greedy lifeless pieces of s— people. Capitalist colonizers who steal and kill from other races to promote your dead ideologies,’” Mokhtarzadeh reports in her recent story.
UCLA officials did virtually nothing. Imagine the “hate crime” accusations if the same comments had been made about an African American, Middle Eastern or Latina student or alumna.
“Students across the country are pursuing BDS campaigns on their campuses, including seeking to divest their universities from companies that profit from occupation and apartheid and are complicit in Israel’s crimes against Palestinians,” US Campaign to End the Occupation says. The group offers instructions and talking points for letter writing to newspapers, among other campaigns.
“Student organizations and university departments co-sponsor seemingly reputable panels of scholars who distort international law and facts to make accusations against Israel,” according to StandWithUs, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues.
“The insidious, growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) absurdly claims that Israel practices apartheid, and portrays Israel as so evil that it should be treated as the pariah of nations,” StandWithUs says. “BDS calls for universities to divest from companies associated with Israel.”