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Calif. ballot proposal for divestment gathering signatures

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LOS ANGELES (JTA) — A proposed ballot initiative in California would force the state’s two public employee pension funds to withdraw investments from companies that “support Israeli settlement or supply military products to the government of Israel.”

The Israel Divestment Campaign, a recently formed organization, will hold a demonstration Wednesday in front of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, according to an e-mail announcement.

The proposed initiative was submitted earlier this year to the California attorney general by the Israel Divestiture Forum-IDF: Committed to End Israeli Occupation.

Its author, Chris Yatooma, was identified by the Los Angeles Times as head of fiscal policy for the California Community College chancellor’s office in Sacramento. Yatooma, an Arab American in his mid-40s, is also the founder of the Israel Divestment Campaign. 

To qualify as an initiative for next year’s ballot, supporters must collect the signatures of 434,000 registered California voters — a complex and expensive undertaking — by Jan. 31.

California’s separate pension funds for public employees and for teachers provide a tempting target with their total investment portfolio of approximately $300 billion.

Some of the American companies targeted by Yatooma are Caterpillar, Motorola, Northrop Grumman, General Electric and ITT.

Among the group’s activist supporters are a number of Arab Americans, retired Christian clergymen, and veteran Jewish-American and Israeli backers of Palestinian causes.

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