[Update: Rob Jacobs correctly noted in a comment below that my original title was in error. it is not Stand With Us that is spending $150,000 to defeat I-97, but rather that amount will be spent to defeat it by those who oppose it (including, but not limited to SWU.]
Opponents of Seattle’s anti-Occupation divestment measure, I-97, announced that they plan to spend $150,000 to fight it in court and on the ballot. Though I’m no expert in local politics, this seems an extraordinary amount of money to spend for a local Seattle measure. Of this, $80-90,000 will be spent on hiring an attorney (I’m trying to identify who this is) to represent the group (presumably in court challenges) and the remainder to hire the political consultants, Gogerty Stark Marriott. Among the latter’s clients have been such conservative corporate clients as Walmart and Weyerhaeuser. They also represented AT&T in its attempts to topple net neutrality regulations under consideration in Congress.
I recently wrote an op-ed for the local Seattle Jewish newspaper, JTNews, in which I predicted that opponents of the Israel Occupation divestment inititiave, I-97, would pull out all the stops, twisting the meaning of the measure to be anti-Israel. They’ve gone one better. In a message to supporters, Stand With Us, the right-wing pro-Israel group leading the campaign, falsely characterizes the Initiative:
…(I-97)…is a Trojan horse, an anti-Israel initiative cloaked as an anti-Iraq War initiative. While proponents claim that I-97 “Divests from War,” two-thirds of the Initiative focuses on divestment from Israel. It would penalize Israel for protecting Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks and Qassam missiles. And it would penalize only Israel and not the Palestinian leadership or Hamas for shooting Qassam missiles at civilian neighborhoods or sending suicide bombers into pizzerias and shopping malls.
Of course, I-97 has nothing whatsoever to do with defending Israel, Qassam rockets or suicide attacks. I-97 is about the Occupation, period. It calls for divesting municipal pension funds from U.S. companies that profit from the Israeli Occupation. At that, only two companies have been mentioned as potential targets: Motorola and Caterpillar. So much for “penalizing Israel for protecting civilians from terror.”
When you place such a campaign in the hands of right-wing extremists like SWU, you get mendacious, apocalyptic rhetoric like this. The only question is whether the lies fan the flames of opposition to the measure or whether voters see through the histrionics and are repelled by it. My hope is for the latter to happen.
I wonder whether the Jewish federation, which is an enthusiastic participant in the opposition campaign, has signed on for such extremist rhetoric. I, for one, hope that they let the wingnuts rule the roost on this one. The more extreme the rhetoric the easier it will be to discredit them.
In a side note, Allyson Rowen Taylor, an L.A.-based pro-Israel extremist credits herself as a “founder” of Stand With Us. It’s interesting to note that she has written that former President Jimmy Carter “clarly [sic] is in cahoots with the radical Islamofacists.” She’s accused Israel’s major universities, without providing any evidence of course, of supporting faculty members who are “anti-Israel radicals…openly call[ing] for Israel to be annihilated.”
Though I don’t believe she is directly involved in the Seattle campaign, the hate-filled Rowen Taylor symbolically represents the real Stand With Us with whom the local Seattle Jewish community has thrown in its lot. Rowen Taylor is also Rachel Neuwirth’s best friend and ideological soulmate. Readers will recall that Neuwirth called a UCLA Hillel rabbi a “kapo.” Neuwirth recently filed an appeal of her loss in her libel claim against me to the California State Court of Appeals.
Locally, Stand With Us also brags that two local legislative districts considered endorsing the initiative and both voted it down. What the message neglects to say is that, according to a supporter present at one of the meetings, SWU actually packed the room with opponents who did not live in the district; and on a voice vote they drowned out the actual local residents who supported it.
I’m sorry to report that Brit Tzedek and most other liberal Jewish peace groups, oppose I-97. Since I’m a member of Brit Tzedek, I have to say that I’m most disappointed in the group’s political timidity. I think the utterly catastrophic situation which the Occupation has imposed on both the Palestinians and Israel calls for drastic measures instead of calculation and caution. I’m pleased to say that Jewish Voice for Peace supports it.