Richmond Becomes Second US City to Divest From Israel After Hayward

RICHMOND, Calif. – The city council of Richmond voted 5 to 1 in favor of divesting from companies that have business dealings with Israel. After Hayward, this is the second city in the United States to do so.

“One thing we can actively do is divestment.” Thanks to the student movement, they reminded us of it again. “It was the right time,” says Soheila Bana, a member of the Richmond City Council who helped write the resolution.

Bana says that Richmond has approximately $600 million available to invest in a pool. However, only a small portion, approximately 7%, is invested in portfolios that include companies the city plans to divest from.

Companies that make weapons and work in defense, such as Lockheed Martin, are clear examples. However, companies such as Microsoft and Airbnb are also included in the list.

“They own properties in the occupied region and promote it as part of Israel.” “So, that’s why they are on the list,” Bana said.

“Settlements on Palestinian territory are against the law. It is not allowed, at least according to international law. “However, Airbnb has many properties that are located on land that is being occupied illegally,” said Shiva Mishek, who is the chief of staff to Mayor Eduardo Martinez. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, she provided a thorough explanation of the legislation.

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The resolution states that the city has a policy of not investing in certain companies and their subsidiaries that are involved in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights. However, it also focuses on companies that engage in prison labor, mass surveillance, and border issues.

Dr. Dov Baum, an Israeli peace activist, gave a speech at the city council meeting. She described the vote as “historic” because it broadens the discussion about the allocation of American tax dollars and how they are being used.

“This is what was necessary.” “The genocide in Gaza has prompted people in the U.S. who are concerned to start diverting money away from Israeli apartheid, occupation, and genocide,” said Baum, who is Jewish.

“Currently, there is a situation of violence in Gaza, where many people are being killed. The United States is providing significant financial support to Israel by sending them billions of dollars worth of weapons, which is contributing to these crimes.” “And it actually makes it harder for us to live, or even imagine a future where we can live in peace with Palestinians,” she added.

Bana explains that Richmond encountered legal problems after being the first city in the United States to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The emails of city councilmembers were requested by a subpoena. She says that she is still receiving personal threats.

However, California has laws that prohibit the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, also known as BDS, against Israel. Bana explains that the Richmond resolution was written with the intention of preparing for potential legal challenges in the future.

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“Respecting the human rights of everyone does not involve being antisemitic,” Bana said. “Divestment is a constitutional right.” And we included specific language to ensure that this is not discriminatory.

According to Professor Emeritus George Bisharat at the UC College of Law in San Francisco, local resolutions like these are particularly important during an election year when voter opinions do not match the policies of the White House.

“According to Bisharat, President Biden is putting his chances of being reelected at risk, particularly in swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.” “Statements like this from local governments move up and are heard in Washington D.C., and hopefully will influence policy.”

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