Their ultimate goal last night was to convince the Sonoma Commission on Human Rights to issue a recommendation urging the county to cancel a contract with transportation giant Veolia.
By the time the hearing of the Sonoma Commission on Human rights began, the 95 person hearing room and an adjacent overflow room were filled to capacity. A petulant Allison Deger (Formerly from UC Berkeley's SJP, now an editor at Mondoweiss) arrived late, and was locked out. Her repeated attempts to sneak in were thwarted by a security guard. Eventually, as people came and went, everyone was allowed in and given a chance to participate.
It was clear from the very beginning that the Commissions' mandate was human rights in Sonoma county- and that they did not have jurisdiction on foreign policy issues, nor did they have the resources to full investigate complex international allegations. To the credit of the Commission, there were willing to hear both sides. The North Coast Coalition for Palestine was given a half hour to present their program, followed by 45 minutes of public comment. Then Veolia presented their side, again followed by public comment.
Nick Walrath and his mother Therese Mughannam-Walrath speaking for the North Coast Coalition for Palestine repeated the same tired and discredited lies we've heard so often. Therese claimed that Palestinians were literally "driven out" of the land to "make room for Jews" and spoke of Jew- only roads. Anna Baltzer from the US campaign and Dalit Baum of Global Exchange also presented. Remarkably, when asked about the second Intifada, Dalit Baum managed to speak for nearly five minutes without mentioning the campaign of terror launched upon Israeli civilians. Nearly 10,000 Israeli casualties were swept under the rug as if they didn’t exist.
Many of the anti-Israel speakers were seasoned activists. Jane Jewell, Hassan Fouda, Tom Pessah, Allison Deger, Sydney Levy, Dalit Baum, Deppen Webber, Anna Rogers, and Henry Norr all contributed to the noise level. Strangely, Henry Norr spent much of his allotted time proclaiming his Judaism. Yes, this is the man who spent last Yom Kippur- the holiest day in the Jewish calendar- hosting an anti-Israel film at a church in Fremont. Clearly a man who embraces his religious heritage. The anti- Israel cru commuted in from as far away as Yolo county, with Dave Mandel and Mikos Fabersunne making an appearance fresh from their Veolia BDS fail in Davis.
Allan Moldawer and Ruth Otte from Veolia initially used their time to introduce information on their company. Veolia is non-political. Instead, they asserted “We are passionate about getting people where they need to be. We offer essential services to human beings.” Importantly, Veolia has been in Sonoma County for 22 years, operating and maintaining 49 buses and 29 paratransit vehicles. 81 unionized employees of Veolia live and work in Sonoma.
The Veolia team was also able to expose the shoddiness of the BDSer’s research, exposing their lies about the Jerusalem Light Rail system.
From the BDS presentation materials:
“The tramway links West Jerusalem to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The tramway cements Israel's hold on occupied east Jerusalem and ties the settlements even more firmly into the State of Israel.... Veolia published an advertisement recruiting operators for the tramway requiring Hebrew to be mother tongue standard, no mention of Arabic, a clear indication that the tramway was expected to be used primarily by Jewish Israelis, not Palestinians. Full army or civic service is also required ie: no Palestinians. Since passengers have to pay for tickets local observers reported that few Palestinians do indeed use the tramway"
This information was blatantly false, Veolia asserted. One half of the Light rail engineers employed by Veolia are Palestinians. There are 6 stops in Jewish areas, and 6 stops in non Jewish areas. Surveys of customer satisfaction show 74.5% of Palestinians are satisfied with the Light Rail system. Israeli support was at 58%. Signage in the system is in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
It was easy to disprove the claims of segregation with photos like this:
Perhaps most importantly, Veolia exposed the real nature of the North Coast Coalition, and of the entire BDS agenda. This “movement” is neither about peace nor justice. Rather it is a coordinated worldwide effort to attack companies doing business in Israel regardless of the nature of the business or whether the business is meeting essential human needs It’s a failing movement. In spite of the claims to the contrary, not one Veolia Contract has been cancelled anywhere because of BDS.
And there was still more public comment. The anti-Israel cru pulled out their favorite canards once again- the long discredited accusations of Jews-only roads, of ethnic cleansing, of apartheid and segregation. And the pro-Israel community spoke of the complexity of the issue, how divisive it was to their community, and how ultimately, with failing schools, hunger and homelessness in Sonoma, this discussion simply wasn’t an appropriate use of the Commissions limited time. The Commission was reminded, time and again, of the real goal of BDS Movement - the end of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and its replacement with an Arab-majority state in all the territories of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
Ultimately, the Sonoma County board of Supervisors , and not the Human Right Commission have final say over whether or not the Veolia contract is renewed. Though the Veolia contract is not up for renewal until 2014, it is clear the BDS’ers were anxious for a much needed victory to prop up their failing movement. It appears that this is yet another BDS fail.
The invariable "even when we lose we win" statement can be found in the "J Weekly"
“We came out of this meeting feeling very positive,” said (Lois) Pearlman, one of the NCCP’s Jewish members. “By the end of the meeting, there were four commissioners who at least felt it was worth investigating, worth learning more.”