Dec 2, 2010

#BDS: A BDS initiative in California

Activists in California are organizing for a ballot initiative that would require the state's massive retirement funds to divest from Israel.
California activists have launched a "Divest from Israel" ballot initiative to require the state's huge retirement funds for public employees and teachers to divest from "corporations providing equipment and services to Israel that are used in the violation of human rights and international law, including but not limited to the building of the 'Separation Wall' and settlements."
Chris Yatooma, a part of the organizing effort, spoke with Kitty Lui about the initiative.
THIS IS the first ballot measure in the U.S. to require a state agency to divest from Israel and companies that do business with Israel. How did this initiative come about?
THE ISRAEL Divestment Campaign (IDC) is not formally a part of the global BDS campaign, but those of us working on the campaign drew our inspiration and guidance from the BDS movement. We decided on an initiative in California because of its political demographics--large, liberal, progressive communities, and large Arab and Muslim communities, all of which provide the necessary foundation to support such an effort.
THE INITIATIVE specifically calls for the divestment of California's public employee and teacher pension funds from Israel. How much of these pension funds is currently invested in Israel, and what are some of the companies that are targeted for divestment?
WE DON'T have an exhaustive list of all assets held by these two pension funds. However, we have identified over $2 billion in assets held by companies that either supply settlement equipment or military equipment to Israel.
Caterpillar, Motorola, Northrop Grumman and General Electric are some of the larger holdings in the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) and California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) portfolios.

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