NEW YORK (Nov. 3)
American voters in California and Massachusetts will vote next Tuesday on four different propositions calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state and criticizing Israel for its policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The anti-Israeli measures will be on the ballots in the Nov. 8 elections in San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif., and in Cambridge and Newton, in the Boston area.
* Proposition W in San Francisco call on the city to officially support “statehood in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, side by side with the State of Israel, with guarantees for the security of both states.”
* Measure J in Berkeley calls for the establishment of the Palestinian Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip as a “sister city” of Berkeley. Jabalya is one of the poorest refugee camps, known for its squalid living conditions.
The two separate referendums in Cambridge and Newton are known together as Question No. 5, but the language of the proposition in each district is different.
* The Cambridge proposition calls on the district’s congressman to “vote in favor of a resolution to achieve peace in the Mideast by demanding that Israel end its violation of Palestinian human rights and its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The proposition also supports the establishment of a Palestinian state and calls for a cut in U.S. aid to Israel equivalent to the money Israel uses in the administered territories.
SUPPORTED BY ARAB GROUPS
* The Newton measure, clearly more balanced than the Cambridge proposition, calls on the U.S government to “support the principles of self determination for the Israeli and Palestinian people; the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip next to Israel; and security for Israel and the new Palestinian state.”
All four measures were initiated and supported by various pro-Arabs groups in the United States and the National Association of Arab Americans.
Jewish groups and supporters of Israel across the country, alarmed that the new initiatives are designed to change public opinion in the United States and create a new anti-Israeli stance from the local level to the national one, have joined forces to fight the propositions and defeat them next Tuesday.
A broad-based coalition of Jewish groups and organizations was formed in Boston to fight Question No. 5. The coalition, Americans for Peace in the Middle East, is co-chaired by Reps. Barney Frank and Joseph Kennedy, both Massachusetts Democrats, from Newton and Cambridge, respectively.
The two legislators held a joint news conference in Boston last week, announcing their opposition to the anti-Israeli measure, declaring that they believe in direct negotiations among the parties to the Middle East conflict and are opposed to the imposition of a peace settlement.
Sheila Decter, executive director of the New England Region of the American Jewish Congress, said the organizations who are members of Americans for Peace include the Anti Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; the American Jewish Committee; the American Jewish Congress; the Jewish Community Relations Council; the Jewish Labor Committee; and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.
HOPES FOR A DEFEAT
She pointed out that the Question No. 5 referendums state in effect “that the burden of achieving peace rests solely with Israel, that the Arabs do not have to give up anything, not even a peace treaty ending the 40-year state of war.”
In a telephone interview, Decter said that “we have been working very hard” to defeat the two measures. She said she believed both measures will be rejected by the majority of the voters on Tuesday.
Philip Perlmutter, executive director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, said in a telephone interview, “We don’t know how the voters will vote, but we hope the measures will be defeated.”
Both measures, he asserted, are one-sided. “These are non-binding resolutions. They will not lead to peace. They are clearly one-sided and put the onus of responsibility on Israel alone. Both do not mention Arab violations of human rights, Arab terrorism or the Arab refusal to recognize Israel.”
Perlmutter claimed that the anti-Israeli propositions are a sign that there is an increased activity on the part of Arab-Americans and radical elements sympathetic to the Arab cause. “This will undoubtedly increase,” he predicted.
He said he believes that in Newton, where almost 40 percent of the 8,200 population is Jewish, the measure will be defeated. But in Cambridge, where the Jewish community is not sizeable, the outcome is not as clear.
Jewish groups and organizations in California also have joined forces to defeat the anti-Israeli propositions in San Francisco and Berkeley.
The national office of the ADL has recently allocated $25,000 to defeat the propositions. About $22,000 of the allocation went to the No On Proposition W Campaign in San Francisco and $3,000 to the No On Measure J Campaign in Berkeley.
‘VERY DIVISIVE’ MEASURES
Rita Semel, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco, said in a telephone interview: “We have been mounting a major mail campaign to defeat the propositions. So far, the responses we have been getting indicate that people feel that the issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict does not belong in local politics.
“The propositions are very dangerous,” Semel continued, “because they encourage local governments to take stands on international affairs. It is very divisive and diverts attention from local issues.”
She said she believes both propositions will be defeated. But she pointed out that the propositions are among 26 other issues on the ballot, and “it is hard to tell if people will bother to vote on them at all.”
Anthony Garret, who heads the No on Proposition W Campaign, and Louise Stahl, who chairs the No On Measure J Campaign, said in interviews with the Northern California Jewish Bulletin that they see a relationship between the Boston measures and the California propositions.
“One has to wonder whether a coordinated effort is taking place,” said Garret.
Added Stahl: “The California and Massachusetts measures are definitely related.”