Last November, while traveling in the West Bank documenting human rights abuses, I rode on a segregated bus with the "Palestinian Freedom Riders." At Hizma checkpoint outside Jerusalem, I witnessed six Palestinians violently dragged off the bus by the Israeli military.
How does this affect us here? Because Sonoma County has outsourced its operation of publicly owned buses to Veolia Transportation, the North American business unit of French multinational corporation Veolia Transdev, which operates buses in the occupied Palestinian territories. Approximately 80 local transit workers here are directly employed by Veolia. Last month, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights heard a presentation outlining human rights violations associated with Veolia's operations.
Veolia operates several bus lines on a network of segregated roads that discriminate against Palestinians. The routes connect Israel to Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. The company also operates the Tovlan landfill where Israeli waste is dumped onto Palestinian land, and it profits from the Jerusalem Light Rail connecting settlements to West Jerusalem.
Following the lead of South Africans during apartheid, Palestinian civil society has called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and companies profiting from or complicit in the occupation. While the BDS movement is more prevalent in Europe and other parts of the world, there has been increasing support in the United States. The Presbyterian Church recently voted overwhelmingly to boycott products grown or manufactured in Israeli settlements. The Methodists and Quakers have passed similar measures.
Pension-fund giant TIAA-CREF removed Caterpillar Inc. from its Social Choice funds portfolio for Caterpillar's role in supplying equipment used in demolishing Palestinian homes and orchards. As transpired with apartheid in South Africa, musicians are now choosing not to perform in Israel, including U2, the Pixies, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters and Carlos Santana. In the 1980s, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors made a principled decision to divest from South Africa. It must now disqualify Veolia from the contract renewal process due to its participation in grave human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
Deppen Webber has lived in Sonoma County since 1995. He is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and currently works as a caretaker.To submit your 350-word topical essay, write firstname.lastname@example.org.