By Roz Rothstein
LOS ANGELES — Along with many others, I received an internet notice about a September 19th meeting for people interested in promoting a state ballot initiative to divest state retirement funds from some companies that do business with Israel.
The notice was entitled “Los Angeles Campaign Kick off and Petition Circulator Training to Qualify the Israel Divestment Initiative for the California Ballot.” The event was to be held at USC where the USC Students for Justice in Palestine [SJP] had rented a room. Judging from the notice, this was a general event for people interested in the divestment initiative. It was not limited to any particular group, students or otherwise. Community members were also invited to attend.
In fact, despite its billing, this event was not open to the public—certainly not to those whom the organizers thought might not agree with the proposal, as StandWithUs rudely learned.
As the CEO of StandWithUs, I felt it was important that someone attend the event to learn more about the divestment effort. I headed down to the meeting with StandWithUs Senior Developer Gary Ratner. We had no intention of speaking or disrupting the event in any way. Our goal was simply to learn more about the divestment initiative and campaign strategies.
At first, everything seemed fine. About 20 people were there when we arrived. As we walked in, a woman sitting near a table of handouts greeted us just as she apparently had greeted the others. But as we reached over to pick up some of the campaign’s literature, a woman already seated in the room suddenly stood up and loudly cried out, “NO. NO. They cannot be here.”