Thursday, July 19, 2012 | return to: news & features, local


BDS battle against transit company comes to North Bay

by emma silvers, j. staff

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Seeking to end Sonoma County’s contract with an international transit company — in part because of the company’s operation in the West Bank — a local pro-Palestinian group will be making its case this week to the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights.

Some are looking at the Tuesday, July 24, meeting in Santa Rosa as an important test case for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Veolia Transdev, a privately owned, French-based, public transportation company, has operations in 28 countries; Veolia Transportation, which operates and manages public transportation systems in the United States and Canada, has been under contract with Sonoma County since 1989.

Sonoma County Transit buses   photo/creative commons-la wad
Sonoma County Transit buses photo/creative commons-la wad
According to a statement issued by Ken Westbrook, president of the Chicago-based headquarters of Veolia’s transit division, the company operates more than 100 bus routes in Israel — including six that run through the West Bank. It’s those routes, as well as other Veolia connections to the West Bank, that have made the company the focus of criticism from pro-Palestinian groups worldwide.

“Since Veolia participates in operations that facilitate and promote illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlers, no city or institution should engage their services,” wrote a Sonoma County–based pro-Palestinan group.

That group, the North Coast Coalition for Palestine, prepared a docket for the Sonoma County CHR that outlined several beefs with Veolia and its subsidiaries — such as the operation of a West Bank sewage plant that the group claims treats waste from an Israeli settlement but not from Palestinian towns and villages.

Veolia has provided the Sonoma County CHR with a statement on its business in Israel, focusing mainly on the bus lines in question.

“Veolia Transport-Israel operates all its bus lines on a non-discriminatory basis,” reads the statement, penned by Westbrook. “There are no special permits or requirements for riding a bus other than a valid ticket.” The statement adds that an “express route” that runs between the Israeli cities of Modi’in and Jerusalem has caused confusion among pro-Palestinian protestors because it skips multiple stops and villages, “both Israeli and Palestinian. Any impression of discrimination due to limited stops is inaccurate.”

Ann Zimmer
Ann Zimmer
Members of the NCCP disagree. The 2-year-old group of about 14 people will present evidence July 24 of the company’s alleged violations, which its members claim center around “providing infrastructure for the settlements, which are in violation of international law, and are built on stolen land,” said Lois Pearlman — one of three Jewish members of the NCCP.

Pearlman said group members ultimately hope that when Veolia’s operations and maintenance contract with Sonoma County comes up for renewal in 2014, the board of supervisors will choose to take its business elsewhere. The NCCP will present for 30 minutes at the July 24 meeting; the 14-member Commission on Human Rights voted last month to give them the time allotment, after commission member Gail Jonas brought the organization’s topic to the agenda.

While the CHR can’t enact policy, it will present a recommendation to county supervisors should a resolution eventually come to pass as a result of the meeting. The supervisors have final say over whether or not the Veolia contract is renewed.

“I realize this is an incredibly difficult issue,” said Jonas, a Healdsburg-based attorney. “I don’t think a human rights commission should steer away from difficult issues.”

Three vice presidents from Veolia — including a top company lawyer — are expected to be present, as Veolia was invited to speak for 30 minutes.

Members of the public are welcome to attend, and will be given opportunities to speak for one minute each, said commission chair Judy Rice.

Rice added that she was expecting a long meeting — starting at 5:30 p.m. and possibly running past midnight, she said — because of a “huge number of representatives from the public who [may] want to speak.”

The Jewish community, in particular, will “hopefully” turn up in great numbers to hear the issue, said human rights commission member Ann Zimmer, the Sonoma County chairperson for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council from 1990 to 1994. She said she has spoken to fellow JCRC members in the North Bay as well as others in the Jewish community who are deeply disturbed about the prospect of BDS gaining a foothold in Sonoma.

Lois Pearlman
Lois Pearlman
“I do believe this is a test case, at least for the West, possibly for the United States, for the BDS movement,” said Zimmer, who added that she was the only commission member with a strong Jewish identity, to her knowledge. And after NCCP was granted time at next week’s meeting, she was the commission member who suggested inviting Veolia representatives to rebut, she said.

The JCRC this week sent out an action alert about the meeting, encouraging members of the Jewish community to attend and speak. Noga Zimerman, the JCRC’s director of Middle East affairs, said the organization was denied the right to formally present before the commission.

“This is a deeply divisive initiative … that is absolutely part of a larger BDS campaign, and the JCRC rejects that movement because we believe it’s one-sided,” Zimerman said. “It works to delegitimize Israel’s existence under any borders, and it works to delegitimize the two-state solution.”

Zimerman added that the initiative was “outrageously out of [the commission]’s mandate to promote better human relations among people in Sonoma County.”

Three months ago, a similar action was undertaken against Veolia in Davis, but it failed. There, BDS and pro-Palestinian groups attempted to prevent the Davis-Woodland Clean Water Agency from including Veolia Water North America (which falls under the umbrella of Veolia Environment) in a bid for a multimillion-dollar project to bring water to Central California communities. The agency ultimately voted unanimously to include the company, according to the local newspaper, the Davis Enterprise. 

If next week’s meeting in Santa Rosa leads to a proposal from a member of the Commission on Human Rights, it’s possible that the commission could vote on a resolution on July 24, Rice said. But given the size of the expected turnout, it’s not likely within one evening, the chairperson added.

If the process does eventually lead to a resolution, said Rice, it will mean that the commission — which is mandated to advocate “for policy at the local, state and federal levels that promotes equal rights, tolerance and inclusiveness” — presents the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors with a docket of information related to the issue with a draft of the resolution. “We have no power over what the county actually does,” she said.

Rice added that, as chair of the commission, she will be issuing a stern warning about conduct to those present July 24.

“At some point at the beginning of the meeting, I’ll announce that we are dealing with issues that are probably going to arouse some passions,” she said. “And that while everyone is free to speak their mind, I will insist that every speaker be treated with courtesy, with respect, and that we remain civil.”

She added: “Whether or not we manage to follow that, we’ll see.”


Posted by Jack Kessler
07/19/2012  at  09:33 PM
The problem is....

“illegal occupation” - it’s not illegal.
“stolen land” - it’s not stolen in any sense.
“apartheid” - the only apartheid going on there is the Arab refusal to tolerate Jewish neighbors.

Without these demonstrably false declarations, what remains of the BDS position?  When the falsehoods are subtracted, the BDS position comes down to hatred of the Jewish state and nothing else.

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Posted by sol rosenberg
07/20/2012  at  02:10 AM
lois pearlman is a member of JVP . . .

and supported the IHH sponsored gaza terror flotillas. jweekly had an article about her before. spearheading the latest anti-Israel campaign (to the delight of Israel’s anti-Semitic enemies like hamas and the iranian regime) is business as usual for her, JVP and the rest of the mental giants who support BDS.

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Posted by rfaelmoshe
07/20/2012  at  02:03 PM
So misguided and on so many levels.

The presumptions underlying the fantasy politics of BDS are so misguided and on so many levels. The first mistaken presumption is that the phrase “Palestinian” refers to an Arab ethnic or tribal group rather than an Arab political sub-division consisting of those ethnically diverse Muslims that remained hostile to Israel after 1948, and which was assi gned to them in 1964 by the Arab League and Nasser.  The next mistaken presumption is that a 19 year illegal occupation and re-naming of historic Judea and Samaria to the “West Bank”, by Jordan, from 1948 until the 1967 Six Day War somehow magically transformed the ancient Jewish heart land into “Palestinian land.”  And of course, the presumption that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a territorial conflict that can be resolved through pressure on Israel to appease the Arab side simply has no basis and is therefore simply fantasy politics. “BDS” started in 1921,well before the establishment of the state of Israel and was then, more honestly called, “the Arab boycott of the Jews.”  Shall we all cease being naive about what “BDS” is really about here?

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Posted by Theresa
07/22/2012  at  11:59 AM
More Jew-washing by the anti-Israel team

Its interesting that they are using Lois Pearlman to “Jew Wash” this issue. The name usually associated with this group is Paul Larudee’s protoge, Deppen Webber, who was kicked out of Israel for his role in organizing the “Global March to Jerusalem”- an event which attempted an assault on Israel’s border’s and Israel sovereignty.  Paul, Deppen and Lois are all members of Jewish Voice for Peace- a group that stands shoulder to shoulder with the most notorious Jew-haters locally

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Posted by Janice
07/22/2012  at  02:56 PM
As long as Veolia continues

As long as Veolia continues to operate in the West Bank the contract with Sonoma should be abrogated.

When and if Israel ends it occupation and its illegal settlement project then and only then should Sonoma or any other city or state have a contract with Veolia.

I know that there are those who close their eyes and refuse to recognize that each and every settlement built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal under international law. Israel is the only country that says that the settlements are legal but what else would one expect from the builders of illegal settlements.

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Posted by Janice
07/22/2012  at  03:00 PM
For Jack Kessler

You write of Arab refusal to allow Jewish neighbors. Are you aware of the many attacks made on Palestinian villages by settlers or are you blind to what is going on?

Furthermore can you tell me the percentage of Palestinians and non-Jews who live in what are called Jewish settlements? Or will the settlements not tolerate any but people like you and me.

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Posted by Theresa
07/22/2012  at  11:05 PM
According to the Levy report its legal

According to the recently released Levy report, the “settlements” are legal under international law. That doesn’t mean they are wise or in Israel’s best interest, but they are legal.  Here’s a good summary of the levy report’s findings:

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Posted by Janice
07/23/2012  at  05:05 PM
For Theresa

The world doesn’t care what the Levy report says. When a justice of a country that is defying internationall law regarding the settlements says the settlements are legal that does not mean that they are legal.

No other country in the world, including the US says that the settlements are legal. No matter how Israel tries to spin it the settlements are still illegal.

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Posted by Theresa
07/23/2012  at  11:25 PM
Logical fallacy, Janice Appeal to Common Practice

You are using a common logical fallacy, Janice- The Appeal to Common Practice is a fallacy with the following structure:

X is a common action.
Therefore X is correct/moral/justified/reasonable, etc.

The basic idea behind the fallacy is that the fact that most people do X is used as “evidence” to support the action or practice. It is a fallacy because the mere fact that most people do something does not make it correct, moral, justified, or reasonable.

Read more about logical fallacies here:

In a world dominated by theocracies , autocracies and dictatorships,  what the world thinks and what is right and just are likely very very different.

And pssst, Janice.  This may ever well be one of those cases

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Posted by Janice
07/24/2012  at  01:53 PM

There is no way that you can explain away the unexplainable and the illegitimate. All your “xs” don’t disguise the fact that ALL of the world, with the exception of the country committing the illegal acts, believe these illegal acts to be just that - illegal.

This reminds me of the man who kills his parents and then claims that since he is an orphan he should have no punishment. He has done somethinbg illegal and so has Israel.

BTW, a country doesn’t have to be a theocracy (although Israel is close to being one) or anything else to know that the settlements are illegal.

There is a long list of democracies that have said that the settlements are illegal. The international community, with the exception of the country that is committing the illegality, stands together. The settlements are illegal.

Israel is lucky because no country has the guts to do anything about it.

Pssst Theresa. Get your blindfolds off and stop trying to defend the indefensible.

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Posted by rfaelmoshe
07/25/2012  at  04:09 PM
If your opinions are based on incorrect facts...

Hello Janice, If your opinions, no matter how strongly held, are based on incorrect facts and law, then both your opinions and your true, underlying motivations need to be re-examined. It always amazes me that there are still people that simply prefer to accept that politically motivated collection of myths, prevarications, tall tales and fabrications referred to as the “Palestinian narrative”, rather than learning actual Jewish history ,real facts about the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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Posted by Janice
07/25/2012  at  10:28 PM
Rafael Moshe

My motivation is for Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and to return all settlers behind the Green Line. My motivation is for Israel to be a country that is admired and not seen in many quarters of the world as a pariah state. If Israel continues with its illegal settlement project which has obviously been carefully designed to prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinians state then Israel will only be seen as an apartheid state that has taken land that does not belong to it.
I do not buy into the nonesense that since a sort of Jewish state existed thousands of years ago and that a few Jews remained there is the right to take over the land where others have lived for many generations.
If you want Israel to be seen as an apartheid, pariah state then you are doing a good job at making that happen.

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Posted by rfaelmoshe
07/26/2012  at  12:45 AM
Let's think this out a bit Janice

The “Green Line” is simply the 1949 armistice lines (where the armies stopped) and which was declared by the Arab League,“never to be construed as a border of any kind.” Thereafter, the British client state of Jordan (independent only since 1946) illegally annexed and re-named historic “Judea and Samaria to the “West Bank” in an effort to de- Judiaze the area and distancei it from it’s Jewish history.The vast majority of the ancestors of today’s self- identified “Palestinians” were ethnically diverse Muslim migrant workers from throughout the Ottoman Turkish Empire, mostly arriving after the advent of modern, political Zionism which had sparked an economic boom. That’s why UNRWA only required that the Arabs the left pre-state Israel in in 1948, to have had pre-state Israel as their ordinary place of residence from 1946-48 as opposed to “many generations.“Read W’m Ziff’s1938,“Rape of Palestine.” The political label “Palestinian"was only assigned to them in 1964 by the Arab League, along with thePLO. Not only has there never,ever in history been an “Arab State of Palestine”, had Israel (G-d forbid!) lost the 1948 War of Independence, we would never have heard such phrases as"Palestinian”,“Palestinian land,and, certainly not “Palestinian State.” The land would have been divided among the five Arab nations that invaded the newly declared state of Israel, and all of the Jews would have been killed or ethnically cleansed. Using politically loaded vocabulary like “occupation”,“illegal settlement project”, “settlers”, “pariah state” or “apartheid” for their emotional impact rather than applicable meaning of the phrases, clearly demonstrates your lack of understanding of the facts, history and issues involved in the Arab-Israeli Confict.

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Posted by Janice
07/26/2012  at  11:13 AM
Rafael Moshe

OK. So you keep the land and grab even more because you think that you are entitled. But you have a large number of people who also believe that they have a claim on the land.

So how about making them Israeli citizens and give them one person/one vote?

The Palestinians are not going to leave even as Israel deliberately makes life miserable for them in hopes that they will leave.

So if you don’t give them the vote and equal rights to Jews you will really be known as the Apartheid State of Israel.

Is that what you want?

BTW, don’t try to demean me by saying that I don’t know the history. I know the history very well. I also know that my now deceased brother-in-law was one of the ethnic cleansers in 1948 when as a member of the Haganah he and his well-armed militia drove villages of Arabs from their homes in the north across the border into Lebanon. These poor folks were not even given time to put on their shoes as they were forced barefoot from the beds and homes. If one of these ethnically cleansed people tried to get back to retreive something from their homes or to harvest some food they were shot on sight. The villages were destroyed as were at least 400 other villages that had been in Palestine long before the first European Jew set foot in Palestine.

This was naked theft and I don’t care what was “promised” or what a group of Europeans said.

That said, Israel is there and should exist but Israel should get the hell out of the West Bank. I know that our people want to take all the land and because that is happening the good feelings I once had about Israel have evaporated.  I long ago gave up my so-called “right of return.”

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Posted by rfaelmoshe
07/26/2012  at  01:42 PM
You remain confused on the history

When Jordan illegally annexed Judea and Samaria, and ethnically cleansed it of all Jews as in the Arab massacres of Jewish civilians in Gush Etzion (an area purchased in the 1920s), it was only then re-named the “West Bank.” The people that then resided there were made Jordanian citizens. At present,and by their choice,they are citizens and vote within the Palestinian Authority. Nothing has magically transformed the formerly Ottoman, then British, then Jordanian, “West Bank” into anything other than “disputed territory” and certainly not into un-questionably “Palestinian"Land. The 1948 War of Independence was a War, not an Israeli action against Arab civilians but rather a war that involved the national armies of Syria,Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, etc participating as well as Arab irregulars. Arabs left pre-state Israel for a variety of reasons.  Because the Arab High Command had instructed them to clear the battlefield and to return with the victorious Arab armies and share in the plunder, to avoid the war, in response to Arab fear mongering broadcasts, to avoid living under a non-Muslim government,because they had participated in hostilities,  and, to avoid being prosecuted for crimes committed during the “Arab Riots” of 1929, and 1936-39 (like Abu Mazen’s family from Tsvat). There’s a big difference between “refugee” and “fugitve.”

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Posted by Janice
07/26/2012  at  04:53 PM

I findit truly interesting that the BBC monitored all the radio broadcasts from Palestine and found not one broadcast that called for the Arabs to leave.

On the contrary, after the massacre by the Irgun at Deir Yassin, there were calls from certain Jewish forces for people to leave.

As for plunder, read Tom Segev’s works where he writes of how the Jewish forces plundered the homes of the Arabs taking valuable rugs, money and whatever they could find of value. Read of how much of the plunder went into warehouses of the new Jewish state. Nothing was returned to the rightful owners.

I suggest that you read either or both Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine or Benny Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem.

Both books show in detail how the Haganah and the Palmach forcibly drove out the Arabs of Palestine. Today Morris laments that the Jews did not ethnically cleanse every Arab.

RM, time to take off the blinders. It is also past time for you and others to understand that it is only Israel that considers the West Bank to be “disputed.” The rest of the world calls the West Bank “occupied territory.”

You have yet to say what you would do with the millions of Palestinians in the West Bank. Would you ethnically cleanse them or would you have them continue to live under Israeli oppression where they cannot build a home, where they are subject to midnight raids by the Israel Occupying Force, where their homes and fields are attacked by vile marauding settlers, where they cannot move without being stopped by a checkpoint, where settlements on built on their privately owned land, where their farm land is stolen by the settlers, where sewage from settlements is deliberately dumped into Palestinians villages, where the Jews have the lion’s share of the water from the West Bank aquifirs, where the IOF destroys villages so that they can have yet another military area, where their children rightfully grow up to hate you.

There are some truly wonderful Israelis. I do not think that you are one of them.

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Posted by Frank
07/29/2012  at  04:24 AM
What a shame

What a shame that vile despicable evil Anti-Semites are permitted to post here.

Why should any Jewish publication grant any voice to Nazis and Leftist “progressive” anti-Semites on its web site?

It is nothing but hateful graffiti which should be scrubbed as soon as it appears.  Engaging anti-Semitic scum only provides them some credibility as civilized human beings, which they do not deserve.

These despicable Jew-haters should be shunned and reviled by all Jews and all other civilized people for the vile creatures they are.

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Posted by Frank
07/29/2012  at  04:41 AM
Gail Jonas

This character should be publicly identified as an enemy of the Jewish people, along with the anti-Israel characters who devote themselves to demonizing and attacking Israel.  14 people in some little fringe-hate group, and this absurd local “Commission on Human Rights” is pleased to entertain their Jew-hating agenda?  They actually voted for this obscenity?

These leftist anti-Semites should be held accountable.  This is the stuff of 1930’s Germany and needs to be confronted.

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