Are Silicon Valley Jews bothered by the prospect of Calexit?

“I’ll be voting for Calexit, yes, but it isn’t necessarily a Jewish matter per se.”

November 14, 2016 05:28
2 minute read.
Trump protest

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest in San Francisco, California, US following the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States November 9, 2016.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s US election victory, a fringe Californian political movement calling for secession from the United States has started gaining traction.

Since the election results were published, the California Independence Campaign, also known as Yes California, has reportedly drawn to its side prominent Silicon Valley IT giants. What can such a move mean for the many Jews and Israeli nationals living and working in Silicon Valley? The movement for California’s independence, dubbed #Calexit on social media, is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the organization spearheading the campaign, Yes California, is only the most recent successor of a large number of organizations that campaigned for Californian independence over the years.

Founded in August 2015 and inspired by the Scottish referendum to break away from the United Kingdom, Scotland’s Yes campaign, Yes California is pushing for an independence referendum to be held in the spring of 2019.

“The Yes California Independence Campaign will qualify as a citizen’s initiative for the 2018 ballot that, if passed, would call for a special referendum for Californians to vote for or against the independence of California from the United States,” states the Yes California website.
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Danny, a Jewish project manager at a well-known international software giant and a resident of the San Francisco Bay area, told The Jerusalem Post he signed the Yes California petition for several reasons. These ranged from Trump’s unpredictability, “the antisemitic spirit” of his grassroots followers and alt-right supporters, up to policy disagreements on immigration and environmental issues.

“It’s not a joke anymore, it is mostly out of protest, yes, but not a joke,” he explained. “I and others in the industry decided to take Calexit seriously this time. If the current administration proves to be all that we fear it might be, then ideally not only will California secede, but Oregon and Washington will join us in forming our own union,” he told the Post.

However, despite most international headlines alleging that Silicon Valley has unequivocally aligned itself behind Calexit, this is not necessarily the case. So far, the only two notable Silicon Valley personalities to materially back the idea are Shervin Pishevar, an angel investor for companies like AirBnB and Uber, and former Facebook manager Dave Morin.

So far, none of the tech giants, such as Facebook, Amazon or Google, has commented publicly on Calexit. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook execs have been vocal since the election in their criticism of the result, none has weighed in on the prospect of California leaving the union.

Neither tech accelerators and investment funds associated with Jewish and Israeli start-ups nor the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley were available for comment.

“I’ll be voting for Calexit, yes, but it isn’t necessarily a Jewish matter per se,” Jonathan Katz, a graduate student in computer engineering at San Jose State University, explained to the Post. “For me, it’s a Silicon Valley issue. Trump has proven himself an enemy of progress when he publicly shamed and called for a boycott on Apple products. If I want to work for a company like Apple in the future, I have to ensure I live in a country where a company like Apple exists in the future.”

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