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California Residents Launch Israel Divestment Initiative Campaign
By Tania Kepler
for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Residents of the U.S. state of California launched a divestment initiative campaign in fall 2010. The initiative, known as the Israel Divestment Campaign (IDC), is the first citizens` effort in the United States to appeal directly to voters to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law and human rights.
As of September 1st the IDC officially launched a signature gathering process. They group is required to gather the signatures of at least 434,000 registered California voters for the official petition by January 31, 2011, in order to qualify the measure for the statewide ballot sometime after March 2011. Then, if approved by a majority of voters, it will become California law.
The IDC “campaign is anchored in international human rights and solidarity movements, including the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against South African apartheid from which it draws its inspiration. As such, the campaign opposes all forms of discrimination,” according to the initiative’s website.
This statewide campaign, in America’s most populous state, is working on a regional and local basis, and each active group has representation on the statewide Coordinating Committee.
If the initiative is approved by a majority of voters, becoming California law, the larger impact will affect two California public retirement systems, the Public Employees` Retirement System (CalPERS) and the State Teachers` Retirement System (CalSTRS). Both would be required to engage in a divestment process with corporations providing equipment and services to Israel which are used in the violation of human rights and international law, including but not limited to the building of the `Separation Wall` and settlements, according to IDC.
“Divestment from specific companies that profit from Israel`s oppression of Palestinians would assure that at least some of Californian`s tax dollars are not contributing to the violation of human rights and international law. Although the focus of this Initiative is specifically on CalPERS and CalSTRS divestments, these same corporations also supply equipment and services to other regimes guilty of human rights violations,” wrote the organizers.
“While the focus of this campaign is the abuse of human rights inherent in Israeli apartheid, we encourage and welcome other human rights campaigns in California and around the world, based on the same principles and concerns for human rights. In fact, many of the companies targeted in this campaign also contribute to the violation of human rights globally,” the group says.
As of November 21st, more than 60 organizations have endorsed the initiative, which if passed, will make California the first U.S. state to openly support boycott, following in the footsteps of countries like Norway, Denmark, and Harvard University, all of which have divested from Israeli companies and pensions.
“By supporting this Initiative, Californians have an opportunity to not only state their commitment to social justice and to international law, but to also require the two largest state retirement funds to comply with their own responsible investment policies,” according to IDC.
The IDC is registered with the California Secretary of State under the name: Committee For Proposition - Israel Divestment Committee. Filer ID#1320986. If you are a California resident, be sure to look for the initiative on your next ballot.
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