Oakland City Council calls for ceasefire in Gaza amid support for Hamas

Heated debate sees rejection of amendment condemning October 7 atrocities, which multiple speakers deny while backing terror group’s right to use violence

Audience members show their support at a special session of the Oakland City Council for a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Audience members show their support at a special session of the Oakland City Council for a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Oakland’s City Council on Monday passed a carefully crafted resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war after hours of hearing impassioned rhetoric, much of which often fully supported the Islamic terrorist organization.

The council in the California Bay Area city voted 8-0 in favor of a motion supporting a congressional resolution for a permanent ceasefire, along with the unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and a restoration of basic services, as well as “respect for international law” and the release of all hostages.

Before the vote, the council voted 6-2 to reject proposed amendments by member Dan Kalb that specifically condemned killings and hostage-taking by Hamas, whose Oct. 7 attacks in Israel prompted the war that has devastated Gaza.

The motion was met by boos and angry shouts from the packed chamber.

Kalb later went on to vote with the majority, noting that the unchanged resolution also didn’t mention Israel.

In fact, councilmember Caroll Fife, who brought the resolution, said it went through four drafts and “intentionally attempted to de-politicize” the issue by “lifting up what we support and not what we condemn.”

She said the issue of a ceasefire was “deeply, deeply concerning” to Oakland residents and called for a moment of silence for the lives lost on both sides of the conflict.

“I want Jewish children to live as much as I want Palestinian children to live,” she said.

The deaths of thousands of children, most of them in Gaza, weighed heavily on councilmembers.

Oakland City council members Rebecca Kaplan, from left, Dan Kalb and Carroll Fife confer before the start of a special session to solicit public comment about the resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

“The number of children who have been killed just since Oct. 7 surpassed the number of children who have been killed in global conflicts over the past four years,” council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said.

“I was absolutely mortified by seeing dead babies on social media,” and a ceasefire would be crucial for stopping the killing, councilmember Kevin Jenkins said.

Harsher language was used by most of the dozens of speakers, including Jewish anti-Zionist activists, who argued for passage of the measure. They accused Israel of colonization of Palestine and of apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. They also denied atrocities committed on Oct. 7 and showed support for Hamas.

“There have not been beheadings of babies and rapings,” a woman said at the meeting. “Israel murdered their own people on October 7.”

Another woman said that calling Hamas a terrorist organization is “ridiculous, racist and plays into genocidal propaganda.”

“I support the right of the Palestinian people to resist occupation, including through Hamas, the armed wing of the unified Palestinian resistance,” another attendee said.

“We’ve seen the targeting and massacring of civilians, of health care facilities, of hospitals and ambulances,” said one speaker, who identified herself as a recent medical school graduate. “Silence in the face of oppression and genocide, I don’t think, is an acceptable response.”

People wait outside City Hall to attend a special council session to consider a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Others argued that Oakland taxpayers shouldn’t be funding weapons for Israel when the money could be used for problems within the city, such as housing the homeless.

A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, which Qatar helped broker, is currently in place.

Similar resolutions have passed in Detroit and two other cities in Michigan, where a large percentage of Arab Americans live, as well as in Atlanta; Akron, Ohio; Wilmington, Delaware; and Providence, Rhode Island.

US cities have been adopting resolutions regarding the conflict even though they have no legal role or formal say in the process, said David Glazier, who teaches constitutional law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“It raises an interesting question on where they are getting this mandate to speak for the people in their city when nobody elected a city council person because of their stance on Middle East peace,” he said.

In the nearby city of Richmond, an approved resolution calling for a ceasefire and accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing prompted more than five hours of heated debate in October. The city of Ypsilanti, near Detroit, approved a peace resolution but rescinded it amid backlash.

A woman speaks about the City Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Oakland’s resolution demands “an immediate ceasefire; release of all hostages, the unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza; the restoration of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies to Gaza; and the respect for international law; and calls for a resolution that protects the security of all innocent civilians.”

Cities across the United States have increasingly been speaking up on matters that have long been relegated to diplomatic spheres, even working with local elected leaders abroad on what has been coined city-to-city diplomacy to tackle everything from housing refugees and asylum seekers to dealing with climate change.

City councils are just the latest arena where intense debates over the war and the United States’ support for Israel are playing out. Protesters calling for a ceasefire recently shut down traffic on a major bridge into San Francisco during an international economic summit, and the California Democratic Party recently canceled some events at its fall convention due to demonstrations.

In some cases, the tension has turned violent. A pro-Palestinian protester was charged with involuntary manslaughter this month after a Jewish man died from head injuries following dueling protests in Southern California. He pleaded not guilty. In Vermont, a man has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder in the non-fatal shooting of three Palestinian men studying in the United States.

Oakland’s action comes as Hamas has released some of the civilian hostages its attackers abducted in the Oct. 7 terror onslaught, while Israel has in turn released Palestinians imprisoned for terror-related crimes at a ratio of three per hostage. Israel has said it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released, but that it remains committed to crushing Hamas’s military capabilities and ending the group’s 16-year rule over Gaza.

The war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing some 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 360 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists.

According to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors. However, the figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and do not differentiate between civilians and terrorists nor between those killed by Israeli military action and those killed by misfired rockets aimed at Israel that landed inside Gaza.

Israel says it targets Hamas infrastructure while taking steps to avoid civilian casualties. Still, Hamas and other terror groups embed missile launchers, weapons storage, command centers and entrances to tunnels deep within the civilian population, including in hospitals, schools, mosques and homes.

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