May 20, 2021
On May 17th the Cambridge City Council (CCC) held a hearing to advance a BDS initiative. Policy Order #109 directs the city manager to “review corporate contracts and identify any companies that are in violation of Cambridge’s policy on discrimination, including (but not limited to) Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Hewlett Packard Incorporated over their role in abetting apartheid in the Middle East.” The target of this resolution is Israel. Here are things to know.
- Cambridge Residents: In lieu of testifying, you can sign on to this letter detailing your opposition. The letter will be presented to the City Council prior to the meeting to demonstrate the strong opposition by Cambridge residents to this resolution. Deadline to sign is 2 p.m. today, May 24.
- Encourage your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others in your network who are Cambridge residents to sign this letter by sharing this email with them.
- An individual may signup to speak before the Cambridge City Council via telephone to the City Council office on Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., or on-line via the City’s website, starting at 9:00 a.m. today.
- You can also submit written testimony to the entire City Council by way of email CityCouncil@CambridgeMA.GOV
- Please make sure to indicate when signing up or emailing that you are addressing Policy Order #109 on the May 24th agenda.
1. The CCC Proceeded with the Hearing with Full Knowledge That Many Jews Would Be Excluded
The Cambridge City Council proceeded with a hearing on the resolution after having been notified, days in advance, that many interested parties would not be able to attend due to observance of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Councilor Zondervan communicated that he supported disenfranchising Jews in stating, “I appreciate that it is the Shavuot holiday, but last week it was Eid. That didn’t seem to prevent the Israeli government from bombing and evicting and terrorizing Palestinian people.” We are grateful to Councilor Patricia Nolan, who stepped in to ensure that the actual vote would be deferred until Monday May 24th. We hope that others will speak to the apparent readiness to disenfranchise Jews.
2. The CCC Resolution is a Sham
According to the City of Cambridge’s assistant city manager for finance, it has been nearly seven (7) years since Cambridge has had a direct purchase order with Hewlett Packard. In other words, the resolution is addressing “a problem” that does not exist. It is a sham, whose only purpose is to demonize Israel.
3. Singling Out Israel and Holding It to a Unique Ethical Standard Raises Troubling Questions
There are hundreds of American companies that are working overseas and engaged in transactions that could be tied to questionable human rights practices. Examples include energy companies like Aramco in Saudi Arabia (persecution of religious minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQ community) and technology and consumer companies like Apple and Foxconn in China (child and slave labor). Why is the CCC focused only on a company that does business with Israel? This focus on Israel betrays a deeper and concerning animus to the world’s only Jewish state.
4. CCC Proposes to Hold HP and Israel to a Standard It Does Not Apply to Cambridge Based Companies
If the CCC is intent on disassociating itself from companies that violate human rights then it need not trouble itself with events halfway around the world. A March 2020 report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, for example, cited 82 major corporations that have items in their supply chain created by Uyghur slave labor. Some of these are prominent tech and retail companies with large offices and stores in Cambridge (we are glad to provide additional information). Other companies with stores in Cambridge are selling merchandise from companies that reportedly have product made with Uyghur slave labor in their supply chain. Is the City of Cambridge concerned that it may be doing business with these companies? Might the City of Cambridge be extending benefits to some of these companies? Have members of the CCC paused to ask these questions?
5. The Accusation that Israel Practices Apartheid is False and Malicious
Like with other BDS initiatives, the primary purpose for proceeding with Policy Order 2021 #109 is to advance false and malicious ideas that will serve to delegitimize Israel. BDS has been rejected by everyone from Joe Biden and Barack Obama to Cory Booker, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Kennedy, Jamal Bowman and governors from all 50 states. Yet, proponents continue to try to advance their claims by cherry picking data to support extreme and unsubstantiated claims. Here is what they will not tell you.
- Israel is a parliamentary democracy that provides equal rights to all its citizens.
- Israel has made multiple offers to establish a Palestinian state. All have been refused.
- Palestinian leaders have also refused to enter into direct peace negotiations for nearly 7 years.
- Palestinian leaders continue to advocate for Israel's annihilation (read the Hamas Charter).
- The Palestinian Authority supports incitement and terrorism by providing lifetime pensions to families of “martyrs,” who have murdered Israeli civilians.
Israeli policies in the West Bank are primarily motivated by security concerns arising from the sustained violence that has resulted in the murder and maiming of thousands of Israelis. These policies can be the subject of honest debate, but it is a false and malign distortion to suggest they are racially motivated, much less akin to apartheid. Resolutions that advance such ideas distort the reality on the ground and provide cover to groups like Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist group that rejects peace and co-existence with Israel on any terms. This is a dubious role for an American city.
6. One Sided BDS Narratives Undermine Prospects for Peace
BDS initiatives, such as the one now under consideration, are deceptive and misleading. They spread false malign information about Israel, fuel polarization, and strengthen the hands of those who reject peaceful co-existence. In this time of heightened tensions, we might hope that elected leaders would seek ways to promote engagement and reconciliation. The CCC, however, is contemplating a different path, one that will further inflame tensions and foster division. The vehicle for this is a resolution that ignores one side’s commitment to violence and its contempt for peace, while conveying a false view of the actions and views of the other. The losers of such hubris are always the Palestinians and Israelis, who hope for a new day where peace is possible. The City of Cambridge can be part of the solution or pour fuel on the fire. Which will it be?