How a California city stopped corporate complicity in Israel’s crimes

“What are we able to do in this moment?”

That’s what Alexis Villalobos asked his local activist group in Hayward, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area, a few weeks into Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Villalobos told The Electronic Intifada Podcast that his comrades at the Hayward Community Coalition began investigating the city’s investment portfolio. They learned that there were companies they could organize the community to demand that the city remove from its holdings.

George Syrop, a city council member, explained that Hayward issued $1.6 million worth of bonds in four companies that profit from Israel’s occupation: Caterpillar, Chevron, Hyundai and Intel.

“We had several Palestinian residents, neighbors and their friends coming out saying it is unconscionable to be directly funding the genocide of their family members,” Syrop said.

Instead of focusing their energy on a symbolic ceasefire resolution, Syrop added that the community wanted to enact a lasting, material consequence on US corporations.

“And hopefully, inspire other agencies, and other organizations and institutions to do the same,” he said.

In January, the Hayward city council voted in favor of divestment.

Noam Perry, the Strategic Research Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee’s Action Center for Corporate Accountability, also joined the conversation.

Perry, who coordinates the AFSC’s Investigate project, talked about the significance of Hayward divesting from the four companies, which have been long-time targets of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

He said that this is the first time a city in the US has passed this kind of divestment measure, and that the action is a significant victory for the global boycott movement.

Divesting “hurts the company’s reputation… this potentially could harm the company’s ability to borrow money from other institutional lenders,” Perry said.

AFSC has recently launched a campaign specifically targeting Chevron, demanding that the multinational oil corporation end its complicity in Israel’s war crimes.

Resources we discussed

Watch the entire episode above or listen via Soundcloud below.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the city of Hayward owned shares in the four companies, instead of issued bonds. It has been updated.

Video production by Tamara Nassar

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).