By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Brushing aside concerns raised by a local Palestinian rights group, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has renewed a contract with a private company for operation of Sonoma County Transit.
The board voted unanimously to extend for two more years a contract with Veolia Transportation Services to operate the bus system, extending an agreement that started in 2006.
Activists with the North Coast Coalition for Palestine told the supervisors on Tuesday that Veolia is part of a French corporation that operates transportation services to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Critics faulted Israel for repression of the Palestinians, comparing it to apartheid policies formerly practiced in South Africa.
Therese Mughannam-Walrath of Santa Rosa, whose family fled Palestine in 1948, said the Palestinians’ “struggle for survival has become worse and worse” over the years.
The coalition is part of a larger movement to promote divestiture in companies doing business in Israel.
Rabbi Ted Feldman of Petaluma’s B’Nai Israel synagogue said the protest is “blaming one side in a conflict that has gone on for generations” and that Middle East issues are “way beyond the purview of this body.”
Board Chairman David Rabbitt said Veolia’s U.S. division is a “separate entity” from the operations in France and the Middle East.
Rabbitt noted that Petaluma dropped its contract with Veolia several years ago only because the city wanted to operate a new water treatment plant itself.
(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)