California Lawmakers Kiss the Feet of King David

The California Legislature 'kissed the feet of King David' with passage of AB 2844. Will Governor Jerry Brown now follow suit by signing the bill into law?

Last week I put up a couple of posts on the same day, the first featuring the video that you see above. The second, entitled “Israel Approves 463 New Housing Units; US, EU Issue Faint Peeps of Protest,” discussed the most recent settlement expansions slated for Palestinian land, along with the usual, half-hearted expressions of “concern” timidly voiced by US and EU officials.

In this second post I discussed some of Israel’s ongoing offenses to common decency and civility and ended the article by posing a rhetorical question: “Why is it Western officials are powerless to do anything other than express their ‘concern?'”.

Both posts were posted at my own personal website, Fig Trees and Vineyards, and overnight, after I had put them up, a curious thought came to me: that the answer to the question posed in the second post is supplied by a line from the poem in the first post.

The poem is entitled “Mr. Death.” The poet’s name is Pola Fanous. It’s an extraordinary poem, but I call your attention to two lines in particular:

O Israel, O puppet master of continents, I learnt that power was perfect corruption
When Uncle Sam kissed King David’s feet at instruction

A metaphorical, though quite apt, way of putting it, don’t you think?

In late August, the state of California’s Legislature passed an anti-BDS measure that would prevent companies that boycott Israel from doing business with the state, requiring contractors to certify “under penalty of perjury” that they do not engage in boycotts of “any sovereign nation or peoples recognized by the government of the United States, including, but not limited to, the nation and people of Israel.”

The bill, AB 2844, passed by overwhelming majorities in both the Assembly and the state Senate (by 69-1 in the lower chamber, with 10 abstentions, and in the Senate by 34-1 with 4 abstentions). The lawmakers of California essentially kissed the feet of King David. The lone exceptions to this, i.e. those who cast the two “no” votes, were Bill Monning in the Senate and Mark Stone in the Assembly.

The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, who is expected to also kneel and kiss the royal feet by signing it.

Sen. Richard Bloom, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, characterized the vote as a victory in the fight against “hate” and “bigotry,” which Bloom apparently believes (or pretends to believe) are the principle motivating forces behind the BDS movement.

“The action today by the Legislature sends another strong message that California does not tolerate discrimination, hate, or bigotry,” claimed Bloom.

Isn’t it interesting–that anti-BDS zealots seem forever to harp on the “hate and bigotry” they perceive to be lurking in the BDS movement…while never uttering word-one about the rampant racism epidemic in Israeli society and which is manifest even among the Jewish state’s leaders?

I first wrote about AB 2844 in a post I put up back in April of this year. This was just after the bill had been approved by the California Judiciary Committee. That approval was given on April 19. Curiously–and I made note of this in the article–April 19 was also the day the following image appeared on the Internet:


This was less than one month after Israeli soldier Elor Azarya had executed a wounded Palestinian with a point-blank gunshot to the head. That event took place on March 24, and the Israelis in the photo taken on April 19, including presumably the woman holding the sign reading “Kill Them All,” had gathered for a protest–in support of Azarya.

The members of the California Judiciary Committee were bound to have known of Azarya’s act of savagery, since the execution had been caught on video and the story had made global headlines. Yet they likewise kissed the feet of King David, approving AB 2844 by a vote of 10-0.

“It is always the right time to fight against discrimination and hate speech, and today the Republicans are honored to stand strong in this bipartisan fight,” Assembly member Travis Allen, also a co-sponsor of the bill, said at the time.

Like Bloom, Allen too played up the “hate and bigotry” angle, and, like Bloom, he also had nothing to say about Israeli racism–which as I mentioned earlier isn’t limited to the Israeli populace, but is often vomited out by the country’s leaders as well. These officials include Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has referred to Palestinian children as “little snakes,” and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who once called for beheading Palestinians he deems insufficiently loyal to Israel.

Can you imagine a US official referring to members of a racial or ethnic group as “snakes,” or who called for beheading someone? Can you imagine how quickly that person would be drawn and quartered by the media and turned out of office? But yet US politicians like Bloom and Allen slander the BDS movement while pretending to be oblivious of such pronouncements from Israeli leaders. And their colleagues in various state legislatures across the country go on casting their votes for bills attempting to side rail–not the racist politicians in Israel, but the BDS movement–the very movement standing against the sort of hatred and bigotry that King David’s abject lieges in America profess to be opposed to.

O Israel, O puppet master of continents, I learnt that power was perfect corruption
When Uncle Sam kissed King David’s feet at instruction

Is it really in the best interest of the state of California for its lawmakers to kiss the feet of King David? Or were the legislators who voted for AB 2844 motivated more by advancement of their own political careers? Kevin Baker, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of California, says the anti-BDS bill is ill-advised from a fiscal standpoint, and could end up costing the state money. In a letter to Bloom last April, Baker pointed out that the bill “does not evaluate or give preference to contractors that are fiscally sound; in fact, it specifically disqualifies businesses that may be the most economically responsible bidder simply because the company participates in a boycott of Israel.”

Baker went on to add that the bill also exempts businesses offering goods or services that state agencies might regard as essential–and all for an arbitrary political motive:

It therefore appears the bill is motivated not by concerns of fiscal responsibility so much as a desire of the proponents–however worthy their cause might be–to use the economic power of the state to vanquish those with whom they disagree. The bill itself admits its political motives by finding and declaring that “the provisions of this measure address the political nature of contracting with a company that is participating in the boycott Israel and the need for the government of this state to respond to the policies of Israel in a uniform fashion.”

Using the power of the state to “vanquish those with whom they disagree” is, of course, a violation of the First Amendment, and this point also is made by Baker, who asserts that “politically motivated economic boycotts aimed at influencing public policy and advancing social change are a classic form of constitutionally protected free speech.” He also cites a Supreme Court ruling from 1996 in which the Court determined that “the Constitution prohibits governments from conditioning eligibility for public contracts upon the political affiliation of those bidding for a contract.” **

But I wouldn’t count highly on any of this making a difference to the anti-BDS zealots, as it obviously didn’t greatly impact the thinking of Bloom or Allen. When it comes to Israel, logic often gets tossed out the window.

The California Legislature 'kissed the feet of King David' with passage of  AB 2844. Will Governor Jerry Brown now follow suit by signing the bill into law?
The California Legislature ‘kissed the feet of King David’ with passage of AB 2844. Will Governor Jerry Brown now follow suit by signing the bill into law?

But where does this discarding of logic eventually take us? Kissing the feet of King David has led to 68 years of warfare, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing in the Middle East, as well as a flood of refugees pouring into Europe. It has led to instance after instance of government leaders acting against their own national interest, and eventually, if it continues, will almost assuredly wind up in the complete collapse of Western society. Or that at any rate seems to be the logical outcome if we follow it to its end.

Another aspect to all of this, and one which Jews might especially want to ponder if they can stand the case of indigestion that may result, is that Israel’s occupation and settlement expansions, the injustices meted out daily to Palestinian families–all of this challenges the historic view of Jews as innocent victims of the pogroms and expulsions that run rife through Jewish history. It causes people to examine that history in a new light. So how does this impact Jews living outside the state of Israel?

More pertinently, has the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East been a good thing for Jews in the wider world at large? Has it improved their lives? Does it offer them hope and security in a world grown increasingly precarious and more dangerous? There was once a time when the answer to this might have been yes. But you could argue that the negatives have grown considerably and that they have long since begun to outweigh the positives. No matter how the media try to spin it, occupation is occupation; illegal settlements are illegal. None of it is pretty. Israel is the Jewish state–or that’s how it refers to itself–and it’s hard to see how public perceptions of Jews as a whole can escape being colored by its actions.

Add to this the unwholesome picture of Jewish lobbyists pressuring state legislatures to adopt measures like AB 2844–an attack on free speech rights–and public perceptions are likely to alter even further. It is about as illogical for California to adopt AB 2844 as it is for the federal government to hand Israel billions of dollars per year at a time when the US national debt stands at $19 trillion and growing. The cost of kissing the feet of King David mounts up any way you look at it–and eventually this is going to become clearer and clearer to people. It has already become clear to many.

The possibility that at some point conclusions will be reached that the Jewish state should be dismantled–not only for the sake of Palestinians but even for the sake of Jews as well–is not inconceivable.

* I’m told that Fanous is only a high school student. If he’s writing poetry this good in high school, imagine what he might produce when he gets older. The Bankstown Poetry Slam, by the way, is an organization in West Sydney, Australia, which holds a poetry event usually on the last Tuesday of each month. You can visit their website here.

** The case in question is Board of County Commissioners, Wabaunsee County, Kansas vs. Umbehr. Umbehr was an independent trash-hauling contractor who frequently criticized the commissioners. When the Board voted to terminate his contract, supposedly because the Board grew tired of his constant criticisms, Umbehr filed suit against two of its members. Umbehr alleged that his termination resulted from his criticisms of the Board and, therefore, infringed on his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The case made it to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. Aside from the points Baker made about disqualifying economically responsible businesses, the fact that California lawmakers have passed a needless bill which, should it be signed by the governor, likely will be subject to legal challenges, would also seem to reflect unsound fiscal policy.


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