One of California’s most violent cities is calling for peace in the Middle East and the protection of innocent life, with some residents seemingly defending the actions of Hamas.
The Oakland City Council passed a resolution last week that urged U.S. Congress to demand an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war following a heated debate among residents over the conflict, which is nearing its second month.
Introduced by Councilmember Carroll Fife, the resolution backed a congressional resolution for a permanent ceasefire, unfettered access into Gaza for humanitarian efforts, along with the release of all hostages and “respect for international law.”
Citing the official motto of the City of Oakland, “Love Life,” the resolution “calls on elected officials and residents alike to protect life and stand united against violence.” The resolution also condemns what it calls a rise in “Antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic attacks in our city and across the nation.”
The resolution made no mention of Hamas or its Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel, which killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and resulted in the capture of 240 hostages. In response, Israel launched airstrikes and a ground offensive in Gaza to free hostages and eradicate Hamas, a terror group that has controlled Gaza since 2007. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says that over 15,000 people have been killed since the war began.
An effort by Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb, who is Jewish, to amend the resolution to condemn Hamas for the attack and “repression and violence” against both Israelis and Palestinians failed in a 2-6 vote, the Associated Press reported.
Approximately 175 residents spoke during the public comment portion of the Nov. 27 meeting, many of whom argued that amending the resolution to include condemnation of Hamas could be considered “racist.” One speaker claimed that Israel murdered its people on Oct. 7.
Last night the Oakland City Council voted on a resolution to call for a ceasefire.
A city council member tried to insert language condemning Hamas.
This was the reaction… pic.twitter.com/r7aTb2mkrQ
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) November 28, 2023
“Calling Hamas a terrorist organization is ridiculous, racist, and plays into genocidal propaganda that is flooding our media and that we should be doing everything possible to combat,” said one woman who wore a COVID-era face covering.
“I support the right of Palestinians to resist occupation, including through Hamas, the armed wing of the unified Palestinian resistance,” another resident said.
“As an Arab, asking with this context to condemn Hamas is very anti-Arab racist,” said another woman.
“Question: did anyone else notice that those who oppose this resolution are old white supremacists?” one resident asked.
The political tension in the room led to at least one verbal altercation, at least according to Teresa Drenick, deputy director of the Anti-Defamation League’s San Francisco Regional Office, who said she was “shouted down” and called a derogatory term for women by one of the speakers.
“The silence and inaction in the face of the yelling, the name-calling and the disruptions seemed to telegraph tacit approval and encouragement to the crowd,” Drenick wrote in an opinion piece for the Jewish outlet Forward. “Things came uniquely to a head when someone uttered ‘Heil Hitler’ as one of my Jewish neighbors asked the council to amend the resolution.”
Several California officials condemned the city council footage, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, who tweeted, “Hamas is a terrorist organization. They must be called out for what they are: evil.”
“It’s shocking to see people continue to downplay, deny, or even seek to justify their October 7th attacks,” Schiff tweeted.
The city of Oakland — which adopted its “Love Life” motto in honor of 16-year-old Lo’Eshe Lacy, an innocent bystander killed in a 1997 drive-by shooting — issuing an official call for peace comes as it ranks as one of the most violent cities in the U.S.
Oakland’s crime rate of 6,459 per 100,000 is 175% higher than the national average and 150%, according to Property Club.
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