Cambridge, Mass., Passes resolution critical of Israel, as boycott measure fails | JTA
BOSTON (JTA) – For the second time in two years, Cambridge, Massachusetts city council has rejected an effort to formally discourage municipal contracts with Hewlett-Packard and other companies that do business with Israel.
After 10 hours of passionate public commentary on the measure, widely seen by supporters and critics as aimed at advancing the boycott of Israel movement, the council passed a surrogate measure that pledges to review all contracts of the city for ties to companies that “perpetuate violations of international human rights law.” This measure recognizes the destructive attacks of the Israeli government against the Palestinians while affirming Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself.
The council also unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Palestinian Children and Families Act in Congress, which seeks to prevent Israel from using U.S. taxpayer funds to support alleged offenses against Palestinians.
“I heard the conviction that we must do something for justice for the Palestinians, and I heard the fear of Jews experiencing anti-Semitism right here in our city,” said Patricia Nolan, member Cambridge City Council, which proposed the surrogate measure at the council meeting. Tuesday evening. “We hope this is something that can bring us all together.”
What happened in Cambridge reflects the charged emotions and complex dynamics surrounding the way the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfolds in local environments. The city of 120,000 people in the suburbs of Boston, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is extremely liberal politically and is home to many Jews, many of them from Israel.
Three years ago, local Israel critics pushed for a measure that would prevent Cambridge from signing a contract with Hewlett-Packard, whose computer technology Israel critics say is used by the Israeli government and military. to discriminate against Palestinians. (Cambridge has not contracted with HP in years, although Nolan noted that the city had a contract with a larger distributor who could purchase the company’s products.) In 2018, the Mass Against HP group, which included Jewish Voice for Peace Boston and the anti-war group Mass Peace Action, failed to get a council resolution on its agenda.
This year, a similar resolution moved further, putting it on the agenda and sparking fierce advocacy – exactly at a time when tensions between Israel and the Palestinians were rekindling. The measure was originally set for discussion at a meeting on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, but was postponed following objections from Jewish residents who were reportedly unable to participate in the debate.
This meant it was debated and voted on shortly after Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire in a conflict in which 250 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis were killed.
Boston’s leading Jewish community organizations opposed the initial measure, saying it was a front for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, along with the New England Anti-Defamation League, the New England American Jewish Committee, the Boston branch of the Israel American Council, and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, have collaborated with Jewish groups of Cambridge to encourage residents to denounce the measure.
Thanks to the action alerts from the groups, more than 150 people opposed the bill during testimony. 250 additional residents signed a joint letter which was read to city council.
The groups applauded the council’s decision to adopt the surrogate measure.
“BDS lost in a clear vote tonight in Cambridge,” wrote Jeremy Burton, JCRC executive director, in an email. Rather than “demonizing a company and a country,” Burton said Cambridge “has adopted a human rights lens in procurement that applies neutrally to all countries and suppliers.”
Meanwhile, progressive groups including IfNotNow Boston celebrated the council’s decision to support the Palestinian Children and Families Act, known as HR 2590. It has the support of many Progressive Democrats, including the Representative Ayanna Pressley, whose congressional district includes parts of Cambridge.
Blair Nodelman, speaking on behalf of IfNotNow Boston, a Jewish group that opposes the Israeli occupation but does not take a stand on BDS, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the council’s measure was significant.
“It’s a model of what local politics could be like,” she said, noting that her group “is pressuring Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to join the bill” .
The debate over measures was fierce and lasted 10 hours over two days by Zoom. Councilor Quinton Zondervan, who initiated the initial measure along with two other advisers, said there are “clear parallels between black liberation struggles in the United States and the Palestinian struggle in Israel,” and compared the measure to the decades-old activism surrounding Cambridge-based Polaroid’s. role in South African apartheid.
“Anti-Semitism and Israeli apartheid are both rooted in racism, and we must fight for both the safety of Palestinians and Jews,” Zondervan said in support of his original proposal.
Cambridge resident Amanda Jacir gave testimony on the toll of the fighting between Israel and Hamas.
“Last week I told you how a friend woke up on his birthday to learn that more than 20 of his family in the Gaza Strip were slaughtered overnight,” she said. said, adding that the support for the HP measure was an opportunity for the city. “To distance oneself from being an accomplice”.
More than 30,000 Israeli Americans have made Greater Boston their home, and many live in Cambridge, Lital Carmel, regional director of the American Israel Council, told council. She said she feared the bill was “yet another step in making Cambridge and Greater Boston an unwelcoming place for the Israeli immigrant community.”
Rabbi David Roth of the city’s Beth Shalom Temple spoke out against the measure and said he was concerned for his safety and that of his family, as well as the geopolitical consequences of local measures taken in the United States. against Israel.
“Designating the Jewish state as a unique and ugly country worth condemnation makes peace harder, not easier,” Roth said in his testimony.
Robert Trestan, director of the local Anti-Defamation League office, said he questioned the relevance of the Cambridge advice to international politics.
“Ultimately,” he said of HR 2590, “Congress will decide what to do.”
Cambridge, Mass., Post Adopts Resolution Critical of Israel, While Failed Boycott Measure First Appeared on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.