OAKLAND, Calif. - Oakland city councilmembers on Monday unanimously passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East. The vote was part of a special meeting that saw hours of public comment ahead of the decision.
The resolution saw support from pro-Palestinians, but some Jewish leaders said it could bring more division to local groups.
The city council spent the better part of four hours taking public comment. There was a long line outside of City Hall even before the meeting began, with residents for and against the resolution wanting to share their opinions at the meeting. Online, there were more than 1,200 e-comments with the majority of those in support of the resolution.
The resolution calls for Oakland to join other cities in calling on Congress to demand a permanent ceasefire, release hostages, and send humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. The resolution directly addresses local leaders and U.S. leaders such as neighboring cities, Governor Newsom, U.S. Senators Padilla and Butler, and President Biden.
Oakland Councilmember Carroll Fife drafted the resolution, she says, "in deep collaboration with the community," including both Jewish and Muslim leaders in Oakland who "want to see an immediate end to the suffering."
One of those organizations who influenced the draft was the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, or AROC, whose members stood in line to comment at the council meeting.
"People are dying. [The resolution] is prompt. It is impactful. This will empower our city to put pressure on the people in power who have the ability to change the situation and make a permanent ceasefire in Gaza a reality," said Wassim Hage, Outreach Coordinator with AROC.
Some Jewish community members shared their approval of the resolution, like Seth Morrison of Jewish Voice for Peace.
"We’re glad that people are not being killed over the last few days but that’s not meaningful, it’s gotta be permanent long term," said Morrison. "The state of Israel is a settler colonial state. It is keeping billions of Palestinians under apartheid rule and right now it’s killing thousands and thousands of them, and basically we’re saying not in our name."
However, Tyler Gregory, the CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council, or JCRC, said it’s not an inclusive resolution. He said he wanted to see it amended or not passed at all.
"It’s a terrible misjudgment that they won’t name Hamas as a terrorist organization. They won’t talk about the atrocities and what that means for Jewish psychological safety, so we’re trying to make amendments today so that the Jewish community feels embraced and included by the city council," said Gregory.
He thinks the resolution as it stands could illicit more harmful attacks to both Jewish and Muslim groups.
"We wish our city council were more focused on the domestic threats to our local community than intractable conflict 6,000 miles away," he said.
Others agree, wanting the city to focus on problems closer to home.
"I don’t believe these international conflicts belong in City Hall," said Hildie Spritzer, who came with a sign. "It basically says I want brother and sisterhood salaam, shalom, and peace, especially on the streets of Oakland."
"I want to dispel the myth that the genocide in Gaza is not a deeply local issue. We have spent an equivalent of 6.1 million Oakland taxpayer dollars, in sending weapons to Israel in 2023 alone," said Kaley Ochoa in a public comment.
"The very lives of our global brothers and sisters are at stake, and they are dependent on the decision that you make today," said another person who commented before the vote.
Before the meeting, Councilmember Fife sent a statement saying in part, "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."
The resolution, if passed, will add Oakland to the list of cities supporting U.S. Congress Resolution H.R. 786.
The resolution states 66% of American voters support a ceasefire, according to an October 20th Data for Progress poll.