Founded in 2002 by Dr. Vida Shahamat, South Bay Mobilization (SBM) describes itself as “a group of concerned citizens who oppose the war and occupation that is now being waged [by the U.S.] under the guise of fighting terrorism. This includes the war and occupation taking place in Iraq, as well as the countries which will be targeted next.” “In addition,” says SBM, “we oppose the war being waged on our constitutional rights. We believe that war is terrorism and that we need to find alternative ways of resolving conflict if we hope to make the world safe for all its people.”
Apart from its anti-war initiatives, SBM also leads weekly protests against “Israeli Occupation, aggression and terror.” Calling for “an immediate end to all U.S. aid to Israel,” the organization demands that “all institutions of higher education and all businesses divest from Israel,” and that American stores “de-shelve Israeli products.”
The leader of SBM’s weekly protests is Donna Wallach, a longtime supporter of anti-Israel activities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Born in 1951, Wallach has said: “I don’t see how Israel is any different to [sic] Nazism during World War II […] There is nothing that the Palestinians do that in my regard I can condemn. I cannot condemn suicide bombings.”
Wallach and her twin sister, fellow SBM leader Darlene Wallach — who in 2002 was arrested for disrupting Israeli Defense Force activities — have stated that “Hamas needs to be recognized as the legitimate government of Palestine and needs to be included in all [Mideast peace] talks.”
In 2006 the Wallachs co-signed an online petition criticizing Israel’s “58-year […] military occupation of Palestine.” By identifying the “occupation” as something that had begun in 1948 when the Jewish state was created, the petition’s obvious implication was that Israel had no right to nationhood, and that its very existence was an intrusion into what was rightfully Arab territory. The Wallachs signed the document with their names, followed by their place of residence: “San Jose, CA, United States of North Amerikkka.”
In past years, the Wallach sisters commonly helped the now-defunct group Students for Change (SFC) organize a number of its events at San Jose State University. In February 2007, for instance, they participated in an SFC event (sponsored by the Northern California chapter of the International Solidarity Movement, or ISM) where an elaborate photographic display of gun-wielding Palestinians welcomed the featured speakers, Palestinian militants Feryal Abu Haikal and Mohammed Khatib.
In August 2008, Donna Wallach gave a radio interview in which she impugned the “Zionist lies”, “propaganda”, “racism,” and “white supremacy” that were part and parcel of life in “Occupied Palestine, better known as Israel.” “Zionism is racism to the core,” she exclaimed. “All of Israel is Occupied Palestine.” Wallach’s contempt for Israel is mirrored in her loathing of America: “I really hate living in the United States,” she said. “I HATE [emphasis hers] living here.”
SBM members have actively sponsored and organized a host anti-Israel events at community centers and college campuses in the Bay Area. Guest speakers at such SBM gatherings in 2008 included notables like Anna Baltzer, John Dugard, Norman Finkelstein, Robert Fisk, Ghada Karmi, and Bekah Wolf.
In mid-August 2008, Donna and Darlene Wallach represented SBM when they joined 40 fellow “human rights workers” from 17 nations who convened to sail two boats—the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty—from Cyprus to Gaza. Organized by the Northern California ISM, this initiative’s intent was to symbolically “break the siege of the Israeli government” in Gaza. Other notable participants included Huwaida Arraf and Yvonne Ridley.