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Oakland City Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution Demanding Gaza Cease-fire

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Protesters demanding a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza block all westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge on Nov. 16. The Oakland City Council on Monday evening will consider adopting a resolution calling on Congress to demand a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of all hostages. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Update, 10:25 p.m. Monday:

The Oakland City Council unanimously voted to pass a resolution late Monday night to call on Congress to demand a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of all hostages on both sides of the conflict.

“I want Jewish children to live as much as I want Palestinian children to live, but we’ve got to acknowledge the imbalance and disproportionate death on one side,” said District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife, who introduced the resolution. “I reject the fact that Oakland is not united. We stand together on what counts when it counts.”

Fife credited Muslim and Jewish leaders with helping write the resolution. The resolution cited the city’s official motto, “Love Life” and vowed council support of U.S. House Resolution 786, which calls for “an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.”

Dan Kalb, District 1 Councilmember, asked for amendments, but his motion failed. His amendments would have included condemning Hamas for the attack on Oct. 7, murdering more than 1,200 people and holding over 200 people hostage. He also wanted the resolution to address his view that the people on both sides of the conflict are victims of Hamas.

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“Not even clearly mentioning the Hamas mass murder on Oct. 7 is sending the wrong message, and an embarrassing message,” he said when introducing the amendments. He ultimately voted to pass the cease-fire resolution as is.

“I do believe that these amendments do not take away from the cease-fire; they broaden the support for this measure,” he said to represent the views of all Oakland residents.

District 7 Councilmember Treva Reid voted in favor of the resolution but was the lone supporter of Kalb in his amendments.

“There are many, many more facts that we would have to put into this resolution if we weren’t going to add anything more to it,” said Nikki Fortunato Bas, council president and District 2 Councilmember, who did not support Kalb’s amendments. “I believe this council needs to be on the record to our federal and state legislators to do everything possible to call for a cease-fire and a realistic path to peace and self-determination.”

Update, 6:30 p.m. Monday: 
In her opening remarks at Monday evening’s Oakland City Council meeting, Councilmember Carroll Fife framed the resolution she introduced as an even-handed response intended to give a unified voice to Oakland’s diverse communities, one that began following a dialog she initiated with the city’s Muslim and Jewish leaders on Oct. 8.

“I wanted to acknowledge the real pain that people were experiencing,” Fife said. “I wanted to have a conversation with organizers… to chart a path forward. I deeply believe that the resolution that is in front of us today does that work. I think it is mild in response to what is happening in the Middle East right now. It is a moderate approach to the atrocities that are occurring.”

During public comment, some insisted the resolution be amended to include language condemning Hamas.

“There will be no Palestinian-Israeli peace with [Hamas] in power and that’s why this resolution must be amended to acknowledge the atrocities of Hamas and include its removal from power,” said Tye Gregory, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, which has previously called for such an amendment. Gregory identified himself as a “proud gay Jewish Zionist” who believes in a two-state solution.

Oakland resident Naomi Katz said she worries failing to condemn Hamas would lead to a rise in antisemitism.

“A resolution that does not clearly state in no uncertain terms that Hamas is a terror organization that needs to be eradicated… not only invites antisemitism into our city, it fans the flames of anti-Semitism that already exists,” Katz said.

Many other public commenters, however, at least half a dozen of whom identified themselves as Jewish, said they fully support the resolution as it stands and pushed for its passage without amendment.

“I’m a descendant of people who have survived genocide, displacement, ethnic cleansing and persecution because of who they are,” said Oakland resident Elizabeth Diamond. “I refuse to be silent. Never again means never again for anyone, including Palestinians. I ask the City Council to speak up by passing this resolution without amendment. Never again is now.”

“I’m an anti-Zionist Jew and I’ve lived here 12 years… I am the granddaughter of two German Jewish Holocaust survivors and I call for a ceasefire now,” said a resident who identified themselves as Gianni. “My grandfather escaped the Nazis and then returned to Germany as an American soldier and helped liberate concentration camps. And he saw firsthand what violence you can do to other people, when you dehumanize them. The Jewish people are not safer by denying life and sovereignty to Palestinians… Pass the resolution without amendment please.”

“As a Jewish Oakland resident I’ve been horrified day after day at the scale of murder and destruction wrought by Israel’s U.S.-funded bombs,” said Lee Goodman. “We have an important role to play in creating the political pressure at the national level to stop U.S. tax dollars from funding mass murder… This amendment to condemn Hamas is a distraction and deflection.”

Nadal, a commenter who identified himself as Palestinian, said he worries about increasing Islamophobia and urged the Council to pass the resolution.

“Oakland’s Arab and Muslim communities have never been so vulnerable and we need you now to protect us,” he said. “We urge you to reject any amendments made by extremists and racists calling for increased violence and warfare… please stand strong and stand up for humanity.”

One commenter, Samira, who identified herself as a Palestinian American “with family still living in Palestine,” drew a direct line between Oakland’s history of being at the forefront of the fight for racial justice and the plight of Palestinians.

“Some of my family… asked about Oakland because they had heard about the Black Panther Party,” she said. “And they were really excited at the potential that a city who had such a historic, revolutionary force behind them … would be here today to stand in solidarity with Palestine. I know it might be hard to think about how Oakland could connect to Palestine. but it’s important to remember that all of these liberations are united… and for the ability to just be a person in a place without getting massacred by a violent police force.”

Original story:
The Oakland City Council will consider adopting a resolution Monday night calling on Congress to demand a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of all hostages, both Jewish and Palestinian.

“This is a time for diplomatic solutions, not military might, because the only pathway to lasting peace and justice will require addressing the root causes of the crisis,” wrote Councilmember Carroll Fife, who introduced the resolution, in an Instagram post.

Fife, and the “Oakland-wide Muslim and Jewish leaders” she credited with writing the resolution, cite the city’s official motto, “Love Life,” and want the council to support U.S. House Resolution 786, which calls for “an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.”

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The Oakland proposal comes as a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas has allowed the freeing of hostages, as well as some desperately needed humanitarian aid, to flow into the Gaza Strip, according to reporting from NPR. The more than 2 million Palestinians who live in Gaza have faced dire shortages of food, water, medical supplies and fuel amid Israel’s ongoing siege of the territory. Israel’s heavy bombardment and invasion of Gaza began after Hamas militants killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped approximately 240 others in a cross-border attack into Southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza have now killed more than 13,000 people, according to Gaza health officials. Among the dead are more than 5,350 children, according to UNICEF.

Protesters at numerous Oakland demonstrations in recent weeks have demanded a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel, including actions at an Oakland City Council meeting, at the Port of Oakland, and the federal building in downtown Oakland. On Nov. 16, hundreds of demonstrators shut down the Bay Bridge for hours during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

Fife’s resolution also calls for the unrestricted entry of aid into Gaza, the restoration of critical supplies in Gaza and the respect for international law. If passed, the Oakland resolution would also condemn “the recent rise of Antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic attacks in our city and across the nation.”

Oakland is not the first Bay Area city to consider a resolution; the Richmond City Council approved a similar resolution last month, calling Israel’s actions “ethnic cleansing” and  “collective punishment.” The Oakland resolution does not mention either but does recognize the loss of life on both sides of the conflict while also noting that “over 1.5 million Palestinians” still face “displacement, homelessness, and starvation.”

Other city councilmembers have also voiced their support for a cease-fire. On Nov. 13, council president Nikki Fortunato Bas issued a statement addressed to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders asking them to call for a cease-fire, saying she “mourns every life lost” and that the loss of life on both sides of the conflict is “unforgivable and inhumane.”

Councilmember Dan Kalb, on the other hand, has criticized how other local leaders and organizations have talked about the war. He told The Oaklandside that anything in the resolution delegitimizing Israel’s existence or making “false accusations” would be unacceptable.

The group Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area wrote in a social media post, ”We are dismayed by the resolution’s silence. It calls for an immediate ceasefire but says nothing about the atrocities #Hamas committed.”

Another group, Jewish Voice for Peace, called on the City Council to approve the resolution and encouraged community members to attend Monday’s meeting.

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This story has been updated to include more voices from Monday evening’s public comment period.

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