Special to The Enterprise
Regarding Tom Sakash’s report (Davis Enterprise, April 20) on the meeting of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency board, some corrections are necessary.
First, there is no group in Davis named “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is an international campaign of organizations and individuals around the world seeking to pressure Israel to comply with international law, end its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and respect the rights of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, in the diaspora and within Israel itself, where Israeli Arabs comprise 20 percent of the population.
BDS employs methods similar to those used by anti-apartheid activists, who sought to end the racially oppressive system in South Africa. It has been endorsed by many well-respected leaders around the world, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker.
Sakash reports on George Rooks’ statement to the board that he observed Israeli Arabs and Palestinians riding on every bus and train he boarded in Israel during his visits and never saw any discrimination. Rooks claimed that the idea that Veolia discriminates was “absurd.”
(Veolia is Veolia Transdev — the transit subsidiary of the parent company, Veolia Environnement. In Yolo County, Veolia is the operator of the familiar Yolobus, which provides service between Yolo County and downtown Sacramento.)
We have never asserted that Palestinians cannot ride on portions of the Jerusalem Light Rail Transit routes. I, too, have visited Israel and the West Bank. When I was there last October and November, I rode the light rail system to each end of the main route for the purpose of observing who boarded and where they departed.
The JLRT travels between the Jewish-only settlements in the seam areas of East Jerusalem (between the notorious Wall and the 1949 Armistice Line — the “Green Line”), passing along the west boundary of the Old City through two Palestinian neighborhoods and terminating at the Jewish-only neighborhoods in West Jerusalem.
Near the middle of the route, in the vicinity of the Palestinian neighborhoods, I estimated that 15 percent of the riders were Palestinian. However, if one rides, as I did, to the end of the line, where the settlements are located, one sees no Palestinians on board. That’s because Palestinians are not allowed to be in or near the settlements; if they were to disembark at these stops, Israeli security forces would immediately be alerted.
Additionally, only Palestinians holding Jerusalem residency cards or those few who hold a permit to travel between the West Bank and Jerusalem can use the train without fear of arrest or detention.
Although there are a few stops that serve Palestinian neighborhoods (Veolia claims seven out of 23 stops), the principal purpose for constructing the Jerusalem Light Rail Transit was to provide service between the Jewish-only settlements and Jerusalem. These settlements, in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, are illegal under international law.
Our complaint is that companies like Veolia provide services to the settlements, enabling them to grow and flourish. This makes those companies complicit with the state of Israel in human rights violations.
Because the United States government trivializes or excuses Israel’s violations of human rights and international law, preventing companies from providing these services is one of the few remaining nonviolent methods of halting further construction of the illegal settlements, many of which are built on land confiscated from Palestinians.
We want to pressure Veolia and other companies that provide such services to stop. And we want to prevent public agencies in Yolo County from contracting with those companies whose parent organization is complicit in human rights violations.
Since June 2010, Jewish Voice for Peace has been urging financial giant TIAA-CREF to divest its holdings from Veolia, Elbit Systems, Northrop Grumman, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar — companies that support the Occupation.
This week, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church considered a resolution to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett Packard. We encourage members of Davis’ Christian denominations to join the movement, examine the investments of their churches, and follow the lead of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Methodists.
— Mikos Fabersunne is a member of the Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights.