Right-Wing Group Demands Investigation Over Berkeley Official’s Support for Palestinian Rights

Cheryl Davila

Cheryl Davila

The right-wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has demanded that the City of Berkeley, California investigate City Council Member Cheryl Davila, arguing erroneously that Davila violated the law by supporting boycotts for Palestinian rights.

Palestine Legal and the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area (NLG) wrote to the city to correct ZOA’s distorted description of city and state law. The letter urges Berkeley to disregard attempts to chill protected speech of human rights defenders.

The ZOA complained to Berkeley in January 2018, chastising Davila for discussing Palestinian rights during conversations with candidates seeking appointment to serve on city commissions. The ZOA erroneously asserted that “California will not sanction or tolerate” Davila’s support for boycotts for Palestinian rights. This statement has no basis in law.

California does not—and cannot—have a public policy against political boycotts, including boycotts for Palestinian rights, which are protected by the First Amendment. For more information about relevant law, please see Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Frequently Asked Questions: California’s AB 2844 and the Right to Boycott.

Davila is well within her rights to consider a candidate’s position on racial justice issues when selecting commissioners to serve as her political appointees. In fact, Davila had unseated the previous city councilor in November 2016, running on a broad social justice platform that included support for Palestinian rights. Read her story here.

The ZOA is a right-wing organization with a record of abusing U.S. civil rights law in order to defend Israeli policies from criticism. The group invited white supremacists Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka to speak at its annual gala. Here, the ZOA twisted the law to mischaracterize boycotts for Palestinian rights as prohibited, to chill the free speech of elected officials and other human rights defenders.

To read Palestine Legal and NLG’s Letter to the City of Berkeley, click here.