Rejects Mideast Boycott Measure
San Francisco Chronicle
April 24, 2002
by Charles Burress
Besieged by protests, the Berkeley City Council ducked out of the
Middle East conflict last night when it rejected a proposed boycott
of firms doing business with Israel and Palestinians.
The proceedings were sometimes drowned out by the cheers, shouts
and singing of dozens of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators
gathered on the steps of City Hall. The council chambers and interior
hallway were closed by police after they became filled.
The intensely watched measure carried symbolic importance in the
activist city, which played a pioneering role in the divestment
movement that helped topple South African apartheid.
Last night's Middle East proposal would have outlawed city contracts
and investments with firms "who do business in or with Israel
and Palestine until the United Nations declares that peace has been
restored." It also called for a boycott of products produced
in Israel and the Palestinian areas.
Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean said she had received hundreds of e-mails
on the issue, running "99 to 1" against the proposal.
"While it purports to be even-handed, it clearly is aimed
at Israel," said Dean, a member of the council's centrist-liberal
The proposal came with a long list of firms with investments in
Israel and none that are tied to the Palestinians, she said.
Six of the eight speakers who addressed the issue during the public
comment period condemned the measure as anti-Israeli.
"If you genuinely care for peace, this is not the way to go,"
said University of California student Micki Weinberg. "This
is a boycott against Israel."
One of the two speakers who did not share those views was Dena
Al-Adeeb of the Women of Color Resource Center. She said that Israel
had "reoccupied Palestine" and that the Israeli army has
massacred residents of the Jenin refugee camp. "We need to
divest from Israel until U.N. resolutions are respected and followed,"
More than 100 e-mails were sent to the council at the last-minute,
and the overwhelming majority seemed opposed to the measure.
Councilman Kriss Worthington, who belongs to the left-leaning faction
on the politically divided council, told The Chronicle that the
proposal "gives the appearance of trying to be fair" but
in fact amounts to "pseudo-fairness."
The effort is not like the anti-apartheid movement, he said, because
it doesn't have a clear demand, like the end of apartheid, and lacks
analysis of what the problem is.
The resolution was proposed by the city's Peace and Justice Commission
in a resolution that said, in part: "Money talks. Many will
abandon their support of Israel if their economic interests are
The resolution said boycotts and divestment campaigns were used
also as "educational tools."