UPDATE (6 pm Friday): As you can see from israelstreet breaking news, the last 24 hours have been eventful with at least three missile strikes launched by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza against the citizens of southern Israel. Earlier today, the IDF captured an armed force of five Palestinian terrorists in Samaria.
Yesterday was a great day fighting for Israel.
The Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement has declared 2012 the year to target Veolia, a large multinational French company which has different transportation and environmental subsidiaries operating in Israel, Judea, and Samaria.
The primary target for BDS activists has been the Veolia connection with the Jerusalem Light Rail system and the Veolia ownership of Connex–a bus company that carries riders from Jerusalem to Jewish communities over the green line, as well as operating between many cities in Israel.
The BDS activists claim that Veolia is a “racist” company discriminating against Arabs by denying them ridership and by operating on “apartheid roads” in Judea and Samaria.
Shift your focus now to northern California and specifically to the cities of Woodland and Davis. In what may seem as a merely regional issue, the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency (WDCWA) decided last year to undertake a huge multimillion dollar project to bring water to the communities. As part of that process, the WDCWA opened the project to bidders.
Only three companies responded–one of them being Veolia Water North America. During last September and October, our local BDSers pounced on this response and demanded that the WDCWA exclude Veolia from bidding because of its “human rights violations”. By January, despite the fact that the WDCWA had decided that international affairs were beyond its scope, the Board agreed to a “compromise” with the BDSers to require each of these proposed bidders to respond to an “ethics questionnaire”.
One purpose of the meeting yesterday (Thursday) was to decide if Veolia should be excluded or not. One day before, on Wednesday morning, your humble servant had telephoned the WDCWA office for a staff update and had been told that the Board member informational packet for the WDCWA Thursday meeting had already been posted on the WDCWA website. More than this, I was told that some 12 letters had been received from around the world supporting the exclusion of Veolia–and that these letters were online as well.
Immediately, I sent out an urgent call for emails to the WDCWA to support inclusion of Veolia–a call quickly seconded by the Sacramento Jewish Federation . By yesterday morning, the WDCWA had received more than 20 communications from the local community, from several U.S. locations, and from Israel. The secretary of the WDCWA graciously brought these emails to the meeting.
Before the Board opened up the Veolia item to public comment, the WDCWA staff gave its report–a precise and comprehensive statement that spelled out that after three months of staff research and analysis of the the voluminous “ethics” documents presented by the three companies wishing to bid, they had concluded that all three companies should be included. More than this, they had concluded that Veolia Water North America is a wholly different subsidiary from the Veolia subsidiaries in Israel. The staff concluded that the “Israel-Palestine” issue is “complex” and not relevant to the water project at hand.
At this point, the Veolia item was opened for public comment (after the main BDS representative was shot down in his attempt to have the speaking time limit for each speaker extended to longer than the usual three minutes).
Your humble servant was chosen as the first speaker.
Immediately, I threw down the gauntlet by declaring that the BDSers’ chief objection to Veolia–that Veolia commits apartheid by discriminating against Israel Arabs and Palestinians on its transportation routes–is a blatant falsehood. I cited my family’s experiences on the Jerusalem Light Rail System and on buses throughout Israel , Judea, and Samaria–on which we have seen numerous Israeli Arab and Palestinian Arab riders.
Following my presentation, a number of our other pro-Israel community leaders raised other issues with the Board mainly focusing on the absurdity of the Water Board trying to solve the problems in the Middle East. Other speakers (who were not part of our pro-Israel community) also called on the Board to end its delay in making a decision and get on with the job of providing water to the community.
In the midst of our speakers, the BDSers decided among themselves that only the main BDS representative would speak. By the time he had finished, he had berated the staff for “not doing its job” and berated the Board for “not giving him enough time to speak”. Oddly the one group that the BDSer did not berate was our pro-Israel crowd. Nor did he question any of the comments that your humble servant had made disputing the BDS bogus claims about Veolia.
Following these presentations, the Board then voted unanimously–4 to 0–to include the Veolia bid.
This marks the third time in the last three years (prior to this we fought BDS at the Davis Food Coop and then at the Sacramento Food Coop) that our energetic pro-Israel community has defeated the BDS forces arrayed against us.
Your humble servant hopes that you will similarly engage the BDSers when they crop up in your community–and they will make their ugly appearance sooner or later.
In that spirit, I would like to offer the following lessons that we have learned:
1. Develop a strong tightly knit pro-Israel community that can be called on at a moment’s notice to appear at a meeting or write letters and emails.
2. Never underestimate the BDSers or the forces that fight against Israel. Even a relatively small group, like the one in our area, can cause major problems. It is imperative that all members of the pro-Israel community be on their toes to report any action taken by these people. It is only by staying on top of the situation that we can defeat them. And remember that there is never any “compromise” with BDS or other anti-Israel groups!
3. There is no substitute for knowledge and first-hand experience. When you have members in your community who really know the situation on the ground in Israel and/or have the actual experience of living there, the BDSers are often left with nothing to say. People who mouth slogans are usually devoid of real information.
4. Numbers are good. After having the playing field to themselves for the last 6 months at the WDCWA (because we belatedly found out about the “compromise”), the BDSers were shocked when they walked into the room yesterday and found themselves outnumbered 2 to 1. When your humble servant was signing in as a speaker, I ran into the main BDS person who sullenly told me: “So I see all of you are here today.”
5. Numbers are good. Remember what I have already written about the letters and emails. Thus, when the Staff Attorney summarized the Board packet of information yesterday afternoon, he was able to say that letters received were roughly divided for and against (even though our emails actually outnumbered the BDS letters).
6. Numbers are good. Nothing affects elected officials like seeing a large group of constituents in the seats.
7. Never underestimate the power of the “staff.” If there’s one thing that we know by now, it is that Board and Commission staffs set the agendas, control the flow of information to Boards and Commissions, control who speaks when, and, in fact, control virtually everything. Boards and Commissions almost always end up taking the recommendations of their staff.
In sum, yesterday was another victory won, but there is never time to rest on our laurels–as they exited the meeting room yesterday, the BDSers were already animatedly planning their next attack on Israel.