Supervisor Gioia opposes writing, “The passage of any resolution, regardless of attempts to amend it, will only contribute to the divisiveness.”
Passes on split 5-1 vote
By Allen D. Payton
Emotions ran high during the five-hour public comments, discussion and approval by the Richmond City Council of a “Resolution Affirming Richmond’s Support and Solidarity with the Palestinian People of Gaza” during their meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (See 3:30:00 mark of council meeting video)
The Agenda Report for the item (#R.1.) read, “Considering recent events, it’s essential for Richmond’s city council to reflect on our community’s role in the broader global landscape and to stand in solidarity with oppressed people everywhere. The UN Human Rights Council has expressed grave concerns about the treatment of the Palestinian People. Given this context and understanding the U.S.’s historical backing of Israel, Richmond should evaluate its stance. There are concerns about war crimes against Palestinians due to this support. The lessons from the Afghanistan and Iraq situations further emphasize the need for a measured response in international matters. At the same time, Richmond acknowledges the importance of safety and dignity for the Jewish community. The city is committed to combating any form of antisemitism. Our discussions should focus on these issues, ensuring Richmond’s actions are consistent with our commitments.”
However, the latter didn’t occur. A FOX News report shows Mayor Eduardo Martinez, who, along with Vice Mayor Gayle McLaughlin proposed the resolution, saying, “We are one small city weighing in on the conflict that has the attention of the entire world and on which global superpowers are pouring in money, political attention and military aid. But the people of the United States whose government and tax dollars directly support Israel’s military, have an immediate moral obligation to condemn Israel’s acts or collective punishment in apartheid state.”
Some of those in attendance applauded and cheered while others booed. In the video, one man, Bachir Hadid (who spoke during public comments and his was name mentioned by the City Clerk), can be seen yelling and pointing at the mayor and audience saying, “United States. The flag stands for freedom, justice and liberty,” as Martinez pounded his gavel.
Another man could be heard yelling back at him, “anti-semite. You’re an anti-semite.”
“This is a very dire situation..that is why we are focusing on doing this tonight,” McLaughlin stated before public comments and discussion on the resolution. Explaining the reasoning for their resolution Martinez said, “The City of Richmond has a history of taking stands on international issues.”
Several amendments were added to the resolution including one that reads, “we mourn the loss of all civilian lives lost on both sides”.
One woman, Lucinda Cason, who identified herself as a member of Temple Beth Hillel said, “I’m very distressed by the one-sidedness of this original resolution and I think it’s shameful that you had to have public feedback until you finally included the 1,200 people in Israel who were butchered and set on fire, babies that were beheaded and women that were raped. You didn’t even mention that Hamas’ goal is to kill every Jew. That’s in their charter. My hope is we that have a two-state solution and hope we live in peace. But that is not possible while Hamas exists.”
That was also met with applause.
Members of the public spoke on both sides of the issue, with some carrying banners in support of Palestine.
Canto Bryant, who said he is a member of the Jewish clergy and Richmond resident asked the council to “set this proclamation aside by voting no” and “this proclamation is just one more step in making the Jews in your community feel fearful of being alone, unsupported, abandoned just because we are Jews.”
During council comments, McClaughlin said, “We want peace, but we can’t have peace without freedom.”
Supervisor Gioia Opposes Resolution
Before the meeting, Contra Costa County District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, in whose district Richmond is located, issued a letter to the mayor and councilmembers claiming, “The proposed resolution fails to condemn the terrorist Hamas’ killing of innocent Israeli men, women and children, which unfortunately started this recent brutal warfare.”
However, he also wrote, “I believe it is important at times like these to bring our community together rather than create divisiveness. The passage of any resolution, regardless of attempts to amend it, will only contribute to the divisiveness.”
Instead, Gioia suggested the council “bring together our Muslim and Jewish communities in Richmond to work together to develop a resolution that acknowledges and validates the voices of both communities.”
He posted a copy of his letter on his X (formerly Twitter) feed Tuesday afternoon.
But Gioia’s appeal mostly fell on deaf ears. While the council added amendments to the original resolution, the focus remained on support for the people of Gaza.
Adopted Resolution Affirming Richmond’s Support and Solidarity with the Palestinian People of Gaza
“WHEREAS, the City of Richmond stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza, who are currently facing a campaign of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment by the state of Israel; and
WHEREAS, collective punishment is considered a war crime under international law, and refers to a form of sanction imposed on persons or a group of persons in response to a crime committed by one of them or a member of the group; and
WHEREAS, the state of Israel is engaging in collective punishment against the Palestinian people in Gaza in response to Hamas attacks on Israel; and
WHEREAS, this collective punishment of the Palestinian people includes shutting off all access to electricity, drinking water, food, and humanitarian aid; and
WHEREAS, the UN says approximately 2 million people in Gaza may soon run out of drinking water and all medical care; and
WHEREAS, ethnic cleaning refers to the creation of an ethnically homogenous geographic area through the elimination of unwanted ethnic groups by deportation, forcible displacement, or genocide; and
WHEREAS, Israel is now engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign by explicitly requiring two million Palestinians to leave Gaza immediately or risk being bombed in their homes by the Israeli army; and
WHEREAS, the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, has been repeatedly referred to by human rights groups as “the world’s largest open-air prison” even prior to this conflict; and
WHEREAS, Gaza is known as “the world’s largest open-air prison” due to ongoing, unbearable living conditions imposed by the state of Israel, including a full air, land and sea blockade, enclosure of its borders by concrete walls and barbed wire fences, and the strict prohibition of Palestinians from leaving and entering the territory freely; and
WHEREAS, this blockade on Gaza has caused a 42% unemployment rate, while 84% of the population relies on humanitarian aid, 41% of Palestinians have too little food, 60% of Palestinian children are anemic, and the Gazan population cannot count on more than 2-4 hours of continuous electrical power a day; and
WHEREAS, prior to this current water shortage, only 1% of Gaza population has access to safe drinking water, leaving Gaza’s population – half of whom are children – increasingly vulnerable to waterborne diseases, infections, and dehydration; and
WHEREAS, Israel has not allowed many common cancer diagnosis and treatment tools, including PET CT and radiotherapy, to enter Gaza since 2007; and
WHEREAS, pediatric cancer cases that are typically considered treatable are often fatal in the Gaza Strip, as a result of the lack of healthcare and restrictions on movement; and
WHEREAS, the state of Israel would not be able to maintain an apartheid regime without enormous military aid provided by the United States every year, thereby also depriving Americans of money for their own urgent needs;
(AMENDMENT) WHEREAS, 1,400 Israelis have been killed by Hamas on October 7th and nearly 6,000 Palestinians have been killed by the state of Israel in this escalated conflict; and
(AMENDMENT) WHEREAS, we mourn the loss of all civilian lives lost on both sides from October 7th to the present and also throughout the decades of displacement, occupation, oppression and blockade endured in Gaza and the West Bank;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Richmond takes seriously the entreaty of “Never Again,” and that the historical memory of the Holocaust means fighting ethnic cleansing and apartheid everywhere; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Richmond vows to combat antisemitism and ethno-nationalism in all its forms; and
(AMENDMENT) BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Richmond calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the safe passage of substantial humanitarian aid to Gaza; and
(AMENDMENT) BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Richmond calls for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages taken by Hamas; and
(AMENDMENT) BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Richmond calls for an end to Israeli apartheid and the occupation and blockade of Palestinian land by Israeli military forces; and
(AMENDMENT) BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Richmond opposes all existing and any future military aid to Israel; and
FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Richmond advocates for the dignity and safety of residents in every community, regardless of what crimes its leadership may commit, and that peaceful diplomacy is the only way to achieve this safety and dignity.”
Council Approves on Split Vote
McClaughlin moved approval of the resolution which was seconded by District 3 Councilwoman Doria Robinson. Before the vote District 2 Councilman Cesar Zepeda offered an amendment to the title requesting it include “and condemning the killing, kidnappings and torture of innocent civilians in Israel and Gaza” and “that we at least condemn Hamas for the killings on October 7th.”
But McLaughlin said, “As the maker of the motion I think we want this focused. We have amendments in here that shows we are mourning the loss of all civilian lives, those that were perpetuated by Hamas and those ongoing atrocities by the state of Israel. But the bulk of the resolution and the purpose of the resolution, like I said, was to bring out the voice of Palestinians that have been blacked out by the mainstream media and that are needing to be heard because of the extreme oppression and ongoing harm being done to the people of Gaza.”
His amendment was not accepted, and the final resolution passed on a 5-1 vote with Zepeda voting no and District 6 Councilwoman Claudia Jiminez absent. Before voting, the District 3 councilman said, “while the intent is there, however it’s missing that we are sitting down with our community, and I support a free Palestine, however my vote is no at this time.”