From: katewallace@...
Date: Wed Dec 1, 2004  5:38 pm
Subject: About Divestment
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Hello PDSers,


We have had a number of people writing to the PDS list about the Resolution being considered by the Board of Alderman regarding divesting from Israel.


PDS has not taken a stand on this issue.  It does not fall under the context of our stated PDS Platform for Somerville.  PDS does officially support the following statement from the State Democratic Platform as stated in Part XI: America and the World.


The Platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party

We reaffirm our support for the existence and security of the democratic state of Israel, and continued American involvement in the effort to ensure peace in that region.


Several messages on this topic have gone out to the list as well as links to sources of information by both sides.  We encourage you to contact your elected officials as individuals and state your opinion to them for whichever side you choose.


Two resources for information are:


For the Resolution:


Against the Resolution:


I am consolidating the messages currently waiting in the queue that I have received on this issue into this email.  I expect that there may be additional responses after I send this.  Because this is not an issue that PDS has taken a stand on, I hope that this will not become a bombardment of responses from both sides.  We try to keep the traffic on this list down to topics we are working on as a group...for example the Transportation Issue, Elections, and School Issues etc.  I try to be fair as moderator of the list and most members to whom I have spoken have appreciated my efforts and understand that not every message that gets sent to PDS gets distributed to the entire list.


Since I do expect multiple responses on this topic, I would like to say that if you feel compelled to respond, I will collect additional responses until Sunday December 5, consolidate them into one email and send that out to the list.  If you are from one side and feel your side has been unfairly represented, I apologize.


There are many new people who have joined this list in the past month.  You should know that this is a moderated list and it is that way at the request of the members and this request was voted on and approved.  Not all messages go to the list.  If you have a message that does not get sent to the list, please contact me personally and we can discuss it.  I probably can’t make all of the people happy all of the time, but I try.  It isn’t always easy to be moderator and it sure doesn’t pay well either!


A list member (Ron Francis) did send forward several messages from another list to us.  It is not our policy to forward messages from other listservs to our list; we prefer that people interested in that topic join that other listserv.  Therefore I am not going to be sending those out to our list, however I will tell you how you can read the information contained in them.


The topic is “Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.  The source of these weekly reports, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has a web site here:  If you want to subscribe to their mailing list you can send an email to


Below my signature you will find the messages from other list members.



Katie Wallace


Progressive Democrats of Somerville





From: Ron Francis <>

Date: Sat Nov 27, 2004 8:45am

Subject: Re: PDS: About divestment 


Dear PDS folks


I am a new person to the PDS, and so I have one question and a comment:


Is PDS able to take an action quickly given the urgent matter before us?


It is an indisputable fact that each week thousands of gross human rights violations, rising to the level of war crimes according to Amnesty international, are committed against Palestinians and supported by Somerville funds. This is an urgent matter. Each week that goes by we, in Somerville, are paving the way for more war crimes.


I recently sent to the group a listing of Israeli War Crimes for each of the last 4 weeks (4 emails).  Please look at them - they are condensed for easy reading and offer compelling evidence that this matter needs to be acted on THIS WEEK at the latest.


We cannot allow Somerville to remain complicit in war crimes that are ongoing as we speak.


If these attacks were happening to children living in Spring Hill or Clarendon Hill, would we anyone still think it is ok for the funds to go toward these hideous crimes? If rubber bullets were being used as excessive force blinding children and causing permanent damage to kids on Winter Hill, would we be waiting.


All of the children in the world are created equal in my mind and all deserve protection from human rights abusers, and this protection should be immediate.


We all know Palestinians whose families have been and are directly affected by these actions. Many live in Somerville and some are afraid to speak out. (Thanks to Patriot Act)


It is absolutely embarrassing, and unconscionable that Somerville should have these monies invested to attack families' homes, detain people without charge, and use excessive force on a refugee population that has already had its refugee rights trampled on.


Let's take action so that at least we can say that we have no part in this nightmare.


Let's take two steps:


1) Instead of debating particular resolutions, let's issue soon a simple statement saying that we call for divestment of Israel Bonds and the complicit war criminal-supplying companies involved in Israel's occupation, which Somerville has been funding for years. Let's undo the damage that we have already done.


2) Let's go further and support the 8 Aldermen’s' proposed resolution, weak as it is, compared to say the National Lawyers' Guild resolution, since EACH of the 6 sentences in the resolution makes direct reference to human rights violations.


Despite the rhetoric abounding, the actual TEXT of the resolution (see speaks to human rights violations and takes no side in the Middle East conflict. Anyone who has read the 6 sentences of the resolution knows this.


No one has yet given any argument that we should continue to be one-sided and immoral by continuing to invest in war crimes.


In the absence of any such argument, I would suggest that the above two actions be taken ASAP.


Dr. Ron Francis

Spring Hill






Date: Sun Nov 28, 2004 10:47am

Subject: Re: Let's support human rights and divestment 


Here's what Ron wrote:



"attacks on innocent civilians leading to 1000s of disabilities, the killing of nearly a 1000 children in the last 4 years, torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners including blindfolding..."



That could well describe the United States' actions in Iraq. Except that the number of civilian disabilities is well over 1000. I can't say exactly how many because the number is not counted, as an official administration policy (civilian deaths in Iraq are also officially not counted). And the number of children killed is well over 1000 in less than 1 year instead of 4 years. And the ill-treatment of prisoners is much worse than just blindfolding, as we saw at Abu Ghraib.


Ron also wrote:


"War crimes, by definition (see Geneva conventions) are not excusable by any conditions so that security concerns do not constitute an acceptable excuse under international humanitarian law."


It is the official policy of the United States that the Geneva Convention does not apply to prisoners at Guantanamo (which is why they're imprisoned there). Alberto Gonzalez, the individual who developed that policy position was recently nominated for Attorney General to succeed John Ashcroft. I concur with Ron's opinion that war crimes are not excusable by any security concerns, but we should acknowledge that it is our own country's official position to do exactly that.


Finally, Ron writes:


"Is there anyone in PDS who thinks that we should be invested in Israel Bonds or funds that are connected directly to Israeli war crimes as documented by Amnesty International?”


Here's the most recent report by Amnesty International about US war crimes in Iraq:


It's dated Nov. 16, and there are plenty of other reports besides that one. I agree with Ron that Amnesty International should be the arbiter of which countries have committed war crimes. Their annual report on the USA is at and includes the following topics which overlap very highly with the topics on Ron's list:

- Stop Child Executions

- End Racial Profiling Act of 2004

- Who are the Guantánamo detainees?

- Torture and accountability in the 'war on terror'

- "USA: Pattern of brutality and cruelty -- war crimes at Abu Ghraib"

- A complete report on the pattern of US policy to exempt the US from war crimes accountability is at

- The Amnesty website further includes current citations of war crimes in Sierra Leone, Sudan, Montenegro, Indonesia, the Congo, Laos, and many other countries.


* * *


My point is, if we want to be consistent about divestment, we should seek the divestiture from any companies that do business with the United States government or at least with the United States military. Either one is tantamount to replacing the entire city investment portfolio with a "socially-responsible" portfolio. I would support that, as I think everyone would, but I would not support divesting from Israel.


I would not support divesting from Israel because singling out Israel as the only subject of divestiture implies that Israel is worse than the other countries listed by Amnesty International. It specifically implies that Israel's policy behavior is worse than that of the United States, and I would specifically disagree with that during the Bush administration. Effective socially-responsible divestiture would divest first from the US military, not from Israel.


Furthermore, PDS's mission and focus has always been to work within the Democratic Party -- and by extension, within the Massachusetts legislature and the US Congress-- to change the way that they misbehave. We could act in line with that mission and focus by seeking divestiture from the US military first, and from all militaries (including Israel's) second.


* * *


I'm a Jew and a childhood resident of Israel so you can justifiably call me biased. I am always wary of attacks on Israel because I question why Israel is singled out and I question the bias of the attack. I think that any singling out of Israel by a socially-responsible organization must include a complete listing of Palestinian atrocities in parallel with listing Israeli actions.


In summary, I would support divestiture from all socially irresponsible governments and organizations but I would strongly oppose singling out Israel.


* * *


If PDS is to have a fair debate on the Israeli-Palestinian situation in order to make a balanced judgment, I would also suggest that the debate include the pre-1967 history of the neighboring Arab countries' relations with the Palestinian cause, because that accounting would make it obvious that the Palestinians have been the political pawn of the neighboring Arab governments. The stated purpose of the Palestinian movement -- a return to the pre-1967 borders -- would literally mean a return to occupation of Palestine by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The only time that Palestine existed as an independent state was for a couple of weeks in 1948, when they were invaded and occupied by the national armies of the three Arab countries above, plus the national armies of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iraq. While as an American progressive I'm sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, I believe we should not be brainwashed by the oil-funded propaganda of the Saudi monarchy, the terrorism-backed propaganda of al Qaeda, nor the pro-militaristic propaganda of the United States. If PDS would like to sponsor a full debate on the history and possible solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I would volunteer to defend the Israeli side.


-- Jesse Gordon



From: "jonhaber02143" <>

Date: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:47pm

Subject: Re: About divestment 


In response to Ron Francis' message on divestiture, I prefer not to counter his note point by point within a ListServ posting.  However, I invite anyone interested this subject to visit a Web site I have created to post information related to the Somerville divestiture debate.

Somerville Middle East Justice will have daily updates regarding the issue that I hope will contribute information that has not been touched on by the resolution's supporters.


You can visit the site at:


I urge you to contact your alderman and inform them if you agree with me that the resolution is bad for peace, and bad for Somerville.


I hope you will be able to.


It will be updated daily between now and when a final vote is taken on this issue.


Anyone with questions can contact me at


Jon Haber