Letters to the Editor: One problem for ‘divest from Israel’ protesters — in California, it’s probably illegal

Students and others camping out at UC Berkeley
Students and others supporting University of California divestment from Israel camp out at UC Berkeley on April 26.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The protesters in California calling for university endowments to divest from Israel fail to acknowledge that their central demand may be against the law. (“Divestment from Israel roils universities. Would it work? Some are dubious,” May 21)

In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2844. As your article on divestment alludes to, the law forbids awarding state grants or contracts of $100,000 to government and state organizations that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as BDS. California law specifically prohibits funding from being awarded to organizations that discriminate against foreign countries — and it explicitly mentions Israel.

The BDS movement is often criticized as being anti-Israel because it fundamentally challenges the legitimacy and sovereignty of the Jewish state. The controversy surrounding BDS is intensified by accusations that it fosters antisemitism. The movement’s rhetoric and actions often cross the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies to outright hostility toward Jewish people and their right to a homeland.


Eric Rose, Simi Valley


To the editor: BDS activists should be careful what they wish for.

There are numerous American companies that have research and development in Israel, using Israeli engineers and technicians. Almost every cellphone has a part that was developed in Israel. If a doctor suggests you ingest a PillCam to see inside your body before an operation, would you refuse?

I can go on and on.

Dave Simon, North Hollywood


To the editor: As a third-generation Japanese American whose parents and grandparents were wrongly imprisoned in internment camps during World War II, I have great empathy and support for both the Israelis and Palestinians.

However, the students at Cal State L.A. you profiled who cannot protest because they commute to campus and work have an important point of view on the war in Gaza.

I went to a junior college for my nursing degree. I had no extra money, so I had to work part-time while being a full-time student. I did not have the luxury of skipping classes or work to participate in extracurricular activities.


That didn’t mean I was indifferent to social inequalities. I just didn’t have the time to protest.

I support these young and not-so-young students. I applaud their determination to make life better for themselves so they can eventually be in the position to make a difference in our society.

Cynthia Kokawa Lerner, Los Angeles


To the editor: I find myself alternating between anger at the campus protesters and anger at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protesters ignore that about 1,200 people were butchered in Israel on Oct. 7 and 250 more were taken hostage by Hamas. They also ignore the failures by Palestinian leaders to seriously negotiate for peace, even when Israeli governments were willing to compromise.


As for the Israeli government, the religious nationalists in it do not truly reflect Zionism; rather, they are a disgrace to it. They are delusional to think they can go on occupying the West Bank and expanding settlements while playing the Palestinian Authority and Hamas off each other.

David Perel, Los Angeles