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American Arab Group Seeks to Place Proposition on Ballot Calling for Cuts in U.S. Aid to Israel Equa

April 24, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A spokesperson for a Berkeley, Califormia, volunteer coalition organized to defeat an initiative for the June 5 Presidential primary, which calls for cuts in the United States aid to Israel equal to Israeli expenditures for West Bank settlements, said today that the initiative had been organized by a local American Arab group.

Erika Boyd, the volunteer spokesman, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the signatures necessary to put Proposition E on the ballot to be voted on during the Presidential primary were gathered by “Taxpayers For Peace in the Middle East.”

She said she understood that the taxpayers group was organized for the purpose of getting Proposition E on the June 5 ballot by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. She added that a similar attempt had been made in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which has a substantial American-Arab population but that she did not know what had happened to that effort in Ann Arbor.

M.T. Mehdi, president of the American-Arab Relations Committee in New York City, confirmed to the JTA that the taxpayers group which sponsored Proposition E in Berkeley was created by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He said he knew there was a similar effort in Ann Arbor but he did not know what had happened, nor the name of the third city in which a similar effort was made. A call to American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington by the JTA brought similar information.

Boyd also told the JTA that the purported taxpayers group had collected 7,000 signatures to put Proposition E on the June ballot, adding that only 5,000 signatures were required. She said there is another initiative on the ballot calling for a nuclear freeze.

Propostion E declares that “the people of the City of Berkeley call on the United States government to reduce its yearly aid to Israel by an amount equal to what it determines to be the most accurate approxiamtion of what Israel spends annually on its settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.”

In response to the placement of the initiative on the June ballot, a group of Berkeley residents organized “The Coalition for Middle East Peace and Justice, ” with headquarters across from City Hall. Among leaders of the coalition are two Berkeley City Councilmen, James Sweeney and John Denton. Boyd stressed to the JTA that the coalition, though it has three rabbis among its members, is not a Jewish-sponsored organization.

She said seven of the nine Council members have announced their opposition to Proposition E. Mayor Eugene Newport and Councilwoman Veronica Fucson have remained silent on the issue. Prof. Edward Epstein, chairman of “No on E,” is Jewish. Also opposing the initiative are members of the All Berkeley Coalition, Berkeley’s Citizens Acttion and Berkeley Democratic Club.

Also on record as opposing the measure, Boyd said, are John George, chairman of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors; Ira Heyman, University of California Chancellor; the Rev. Michael Blecker, president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley; and the three rabbis — Martin Ballonoff of the University of California Berkeley Hillel Foundation; Avi Levine and Joseph Leibowitz.


Sweeney said he “questions the motives” of the initiative sponsors because it “does not once mention face-to-face negotiations, does not mention the notion of justice.”

Denton, posing the question of the purpose of the initiative, said it was “a contrived measure” to “stigmatize Israel and embarrass American Jews.”

Boyd, asked just what action the initiative required, if approved by the voters, said it mandates Mayor Newport to send a letter to President Reagan informing him of the action.

She also was asked whether there was any view among coalition backers that approval of the proposition could not in any way effect United States policy in the Middle East. She said there was substantial opinion to that effect and that it was generally regarded as a propaganda device, as Denton had labeled it.

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