I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years, and I don’t remember the last time I saw 2,000 people show up for a Board of Supervisors meeting.
For more than seven hours Tuesday, people who waited in line outside the doors to City Hall, then in the halls of City Hall, spoke in favor of a resolution by Sups. Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen calling for an end to the war in Gaza.
Preston, realizing that the resolution had the potential to be divisive, took the unusual step of sharing a draft with a wide range of stakeholders.
The final product denounces both Hamas, for its brutal attacks on Israeli civilians, and the current Israeli government for a war that has now killed about 15,000 Gazans, 7,000 of them children.
Both Preston and Ronen said very clearly that the resolution was not a statement of support for Hamas or for the terrorist attack that killed 1,220 Jews, many of them Kibbutzim and kids at a dance party, who, as USF Professor and Middle-East policy expert Stephen Zunes points out, were almost all likely to be supporters of peace and opponents of the Netanyahu Administration.
But both supervisors, who are Jewish and the descendants of Holocaust survivors, said the bloodshed has to end.
They both also said—in response to the criticism everyone knows will come from the conservatives who argue that the SF supes have no business weighing in on foreign policy issues—that this is a local issue, too: San Francisco’s tax dollars are funding the Israeli military, and so, so many San Franciscans—Jews, Palestinians, Muslims—are living in fear because of the hatred that is exploding in the United States.
So many San Franciscans are experiencing intense trauma, fear, anxiety, loss and grief. Talking with them and reading their stories and listening has been intense over this last week and important. As a child of a holocaust survivor, I lived my life with a commitment that I trust we all share on this board. That all human life is precious. That nobody is worth more or less based on religion, race, color of skin or national origin.
Before and since announcing this resolution, I have heard from thousands of San Franciscans experiencing severe pain and trauma. Palestinians in the city feel particularly unseen, unheard by this country’s leaders who continue to unconditionally back the destruction of Gaza and the killing of thousands of Palestinians, including thousands of children, even while the vast majority of the American public wants a cease fire.
Meanwhile, Jews are still in shock with the October 7 massacre fulfilling the worst fears and nightmares of so many of us. I think it can be hard for non-Jews to understand the damage that the brutal attack did worldwide to the sense of security and safety of Jews.
In my own family, my father lived every day of his life traumatized by the holocaust he narrowly escaped, which claimed the life of his grandmother and nearly all his elementary-school class mates.
It is beyond tragic to see antisemitic opportunists and conspiracy theorists seize this moment to deny atrocities against Jews and equally tragic how the real pain and trauma of Jewish people is weaponized by the right wing and rising anti-democratic forces in our country and around the world.
As most of you know, my dad who passed away two years ago was Israeli and he served in the Israeli defense force as a paratrooper. My aunts, uncle and cousin live in Tel Aviv.
My great aunt and uncle were survivors of the Holocaust.
My family history has shaped me at my core and my deep commitment to justice is rooted in my Jewish identity and the history of my people.
I explain all this to say by supporting the resolution before us and calling for end to the killing, hostages, bombings, starving and dehumanization in Palestine and Israel I’m not antisemitic or one sided, I’m not over stepping bounds of my job and not pro-Hamas.
I am engaging very thoughtfully in a conflict fueled by my and constituents tax dollars and this conflict is deeply rooted in my personal life and identity.
Zunes argues that the US has for years played a highly unusual role in the conflict, seeking to be a mediator while at the same time arming one side. And in the end, he says, any solution will have to start with changes in US policy.
Which means, of course, that it’s entirely appropriate for activists, organizers and yes, elected officials in the US to take a stand, putting pressure on the Biden Administration.
Although some of the speakers demanded a vote next week on the resolution, that’s almost impossible: It would require unanimous consent, unlikely at this moment.
So the matter will go to committee, and then back to the board, likely after the holiday break.
But 2,000 people showing up to speak—as far as I can tell, only one of them opposing the resolution— made a very strong statement. And as the weeks pass, that’s going to continue.