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From our friends at Friends of Sabeel-Colorado:

HB 16-1284 – A bill was introduced in the Colorado House on Friday which will mandate that PERA (Public Employees Retirement) divest itself from investments in companies or other entities that participate in boycott or divestment from Israeli businesses. The bill is fast-tracked – to be heard in the Business Affairs and Labor Committee tomorrow, Tuesday February 23, 1:30 pm. If you can come, you do not need to testify – we have 6-8 people prepared to testify, but we can use your support in the hearing room. We are meeting in the lobby of the office building where the hearing will take place – on the Southwest corner of Sherman and 14th Ave., Room A.

Your IMMEDIATE action is needed: Contact your legislators – the bill is being heard in the House first – and urge them to vote against this bill. A list of talking points is below. Make your message simple. Choose two or three points or write your own.

Find your legislator – type your address on this site: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
Click on her/his name to find their email address and compose your short email asking them to vote against HB 16-1284. Or call their office.

If you are a PERA member, you have a special interest in this.

If you would like some help writing your email, please choose 2-3 of these talking points to copy and paste into your email.

The bill:

    • Boycotts are a constitutionally protected form of free speech, and have a long history of being used successfully to address injustice and effect political change.
    • The BDS movement is a non-violent movement that seeks equal rights by pressuring Israel to: End its occupation of Palestinian land, Recognize the rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, Respect, protect and promote the right of Palestinian refugees.
    • “Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in their own safe and secure states.” [Line (m) in the Declarations section of the bill] This is a laudable goal, but it has not happened. After its conquest of the West Bank in 1967, Israel built settlements on Palestinian lands east of the Green Line. The West Bank is now home to more than 500,000 Israeli settlers. Furthermore, the charter of the current ruling party, Likud, stipulates that there shall be no Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. In 2015, Israel built 1800 new housing units in Israeli settlements
    • The Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49, explicitly prohibits an occupying power from transferring “parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.”
    • Current Israeli leaders oppose a Palestinian state. On March 16, 2015, PM Netanyahu said there will be no Palestinian state on his watch and the Likud party charter stipulates that there shall be no Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan.
    • • The BDS movement does not threaten Israel’s existence. Similar to South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, BDS challenges Israeli policies that discriminate against non-Jews.
      • Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu supports the BDS movement: “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime. The same issues of inequality and injustice today motivate the divestment movement trying to end Israel’s decades long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them.” (Haaretz, March 10, 2014: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.578872 )
    • BDS is a human rights movement with a goal to advance freedom, justice, equality and self-determination for Palestinians. From the Boston Tea Party to the Montgomery bus boycott, Americans have inspired this campaign.
    • The BDS movement is a legitimate, nonviolent tactic to oppose Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians – such movements have been used in the past to advance social justice, most notably in South Africa
    • The bill states that the effect of the law should not interfere with the foreign policy of the U.S. – the Israeli settlements that are the target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions are being built in very clear violation of U.S. foreign policy. Every president since 1967 has called on Israel to stop building settlements.

The declarations are problematic in perpetuating myths about Israel:

  • • The values of “freedom, democracy and equal rights” are not available to Palestinians. More than 50 Israeli laws discriminate against the 25% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian. For example, Jewish communities are permitted by law to deny new residents based on ethnicity.
  • Israel is not a victim; its existence is not in jeopardy; Israel’s military is the strongest in the region, ranking as the eleventh strongest military in the world and it has U.S. backing
  • Israel operates a separate military court system for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, denying Palestinians the same protections Israelis and Americans enjoy.
    • It has been more than 20 years since the Oslo Accords. “Bilateral negotiations” have proven not to be a solution. Israel has used these years to seize more Palestinian land, doubling the number of settlers in the West Bank.
  • The purpose of BDS is not to isolate Israel, but to encourage the current government to end its denial of basic civil rights to its non-Jewish residents.