Priscilla Read, of Jewish Voice for Peace:
In not more than 30 minutes they approved the anti-BDS resolution. The only legislator to vote against was my own Alfreda Williams of District 8 (Elmsford, Greenburgh, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown). MaryJane Shimsky (District 12- Hastings and vicinity) did indicate that she was somewhat torn and referenced injustices toward the Palestinians, and Ben Boykin (Dist.5-Wh Plains, Scarsdale, Harrison) spoke of discrimination in this country, suggesting perhaps that there was some analogy but not completing the thought.
Sponsor Mike Kaplowitz, a Democrat, spoke glowingly of freedom of speech and how the Board defended and respected it and said this resolution was the legislators’ expression of their own right to voice their opinion. James Maisano, the other sponsor, a Republican, waxed eloquent about Israel as the “beacon of democracy.”
I would have said there were twice as many of “our” people in the room as “theirs.” Most of “us” had signs to indicate where we stood since our lips were sealed by Board decision. We had to listen to the misinformation they spouted.
Now approved, the resolution goes to the full Board for vote on Monday evening, June 19, at the 7 p.m. session. We will be there at 6:15 and try to get on the list to speak. I personally don’t think we will get them to vote against – maybe another one or two at most. But I think we might conceivably get them at least to mention in discussion that there are two sides to this issue and that Palestinians have rights.
It’s a lost cause, perhaps, but in my experience, most good causes begin as lost. In any case, I think we can justifiably claim that we prevented them from doing the Jenkins bill that he originally proposed that would actually have penalized supporters of BDS by prohibiting the County from permitting them contracts. And we have gotten some attention and begun educating board members. So even if (when) we lose on this one, I think we’ve made some progress.
Donald Johnson reports:
There was stress on the point that this is only a resolution with no penalties attached, unlike the original proposal by Kenneth Jenkins (not present) which would have said the County could do no business with companies or individuals who support BDS. This resolution if passed will only be an expression of the views of the legislators. I forget who said this, but I think it might have been both of the cosponsors.
Alfreda Williams was the only one
to vote against the resolution. She said she couldn’t support it, having read all the info supplied by advocates and opponents.
Michael Kaplowitz gave a speech about how democracy and free speech are wonderful . He said voting for the resolution didn’t mean you weren’t critical of some of Israel’s policies. Israel isn’t perfect, we aren’t perfect. This resolution or similar ones have been supported by all fifty governors and every county around Westchester.
James Maisano seemed to buy wholeheartedly into the resolution. He couldn’t see how anyone could support a boycott of Israel. It is a bastion of democracy and Arabs there have more rights than anywhere in the Mideast. That is a fact, he said. He said the resolution in no way took away anyone’s free speech but it was an expression of free speech of the legislators and we could continue to debate the issues, “we” meaning everyone, after the resolution is passed, if it is passed.
MaryJane Shimsky had the most complicated ambivalent stance. She said the original proposal by Jenkins which would have been a law was either unconstitutional or if not, in her view it should be. She was referring to the proposal that the County could not do business with companies or people who supported BDS.
This resolution doesn’t do that. It just expresses an opinion. She said she probably had received the largest number of responses from her constituents on both sides and she was damned either way. She said Israel had done some things it shouldn’t have done (more or less those words) but BDS singled out Israel. She also said there were bad actors in the BDS movement. So she ended up supporting the resolution.
There was conversation afterwards with various people on the part of Shimsky and a couple of others, but I don’t think that was on the record.
We peons in the audience were not part of the conversation in this meeting until it was over. The politicians seemed to think it was a big audience. I am guessing the audience was about 20 people or so.
I sort of felt sorry for a few of the politicians actually, except the ones who enthusiastically pushed this crap. Some of them at least (and maybe all) probably really did get into politics to help their communities with local real world problems and here they are being pressured by what appears to be a nationwide movement to spit on Palestinian rights. I doubt this is what they signed up for. The audience was mostly (or entirely?) pro-BDS and we were disgusted by the outcome.
Some thanked Alfreda for her vote and others stuck around to talk to Shimsky and one or two or a few others, but I will leave that private.
Finally, here is a letter from Robert Herbst of JVP to Alfreda Williams.
Dear Legislator Williams,
I was impressed and heartened by your sole vote today against the Kaplowitz compromise resolution.
I also noted that you were the only one in the room to mention the Palestinians.
Having just returned from two weeks in Israel Palestine, I know that the oppression Palestinians face is relentless and implacable.
The BDS movement, is all about the Palestinians, and we must strive to keep their plight front and center as our movement for Palestinian rights and dignity gains support in the Jewish community, of which I am a proud member.
I hope you will speak out again next week when the resolution comes to the floor of the entire Board.
With warmest personal regards,