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Stop Somervilles divestment campaign

By Dmitry Vilner

Section: Opinions

September 23, 2005

Something is rotten in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts. Having lost a campaign to divest city and corporate funds from Israeli bonds by a 10-0 city council vote last year, the Somerville Divestment Project (SDP) is at it once again, resurrecting the issue and this time backing it with a bevy of funding and outreach programs designed to reach as many Somerville voters as possible.

They just want to put Israel on trial, and we need to stop them. Thats how Rachel Glazer, deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston, characterizes the SDPs initiative to divest. She is absolutely correct. A cursory look at the SDP website reveals that they operate only under the guise of a genuine concern for human rights, while in reality trumpeting the same canards repeatedly thrown at Israel in the past- Israel is racist (an entire webpage is devoted to equating Israel with South Africa), Israel is illegitimate (a map on the site shows Israel claiming progressively more Palestinian territory since 1946, two years before it was founded), Israel intentionally kills Palestinian children, and so on.

The fact of the matter is that divestment is financially bad for Somerville and it is morally bad for the pro-Israel community at large. While pension funds will be slashed because of the decrease in revenue and companies doing business with Israel will lose money, the case for Israel will be considerably weakened as the city council nominally accepts every tenet the SDP promotes. Currently, the Jewish Community Relations Council is working with the Brandeis-Israel Public Affairs Committee to stem the tide of anti-Israel sentiment and urge Somerville voters to categorically reject this extremist proposition.

BIPAC cannot stress enough the significance of participation in the political process, and the ability that participation has to enact profound change in the community. Though the Somerville ballot measure is local in scope and doesnt attract the media attention that, say, unilateral disengagement does, the battle to expose Israels detractors as anti-peace detriments masquerading as pro-peace activists, and ultimately to quash anti-Israel and anti-Semitic fervor at its root, is of paramount importance. Here are some ways you can help:

*Be visible- stand at T-stops and advocate the pro-Israel position.
*Phone bank- call Somerville voters and urge them to reject the petition.
*Door-to-door canvassing- personal interaction is the best method of persuasion.
The deadline for acquiring the ballot signatures, as stated, is this Tuesday, September 27. These last few days are the most crucial for preventing divestment from getting on the ballot, so act immediately. For more information, contact Volunteer Coordinator Steve Lampert at (617) 629-9800 or visit www.somervillepeace.org.

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