Santa Cruz City Council rejects cease-fire resolution – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Aric Sleeper

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SANTA CRUZ — After about 10 hours of public testimony concerning the passage of a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas at the Santa Cruz City Council meeting Tuesday, the council ultimately changed course and passed an alternate resolution calling for broad peace in the Middle East.

The cease-fire resolution was the 29th action item on the meeting’s agenda, and was set to be deliberated by the Santa Cruz City Council at 5 p.m. Tuesday. In the hours leading up to the start, as the consent agenda and other items were heard by the council, roughly 300 to 400 community members gathered outside the council chambers and around Santa Cruz City Hall.

Supporters and opponents of the cease fire resolution crowd the entrance of the Santa Cruz City Council chambers as the doors are open prior to Tuesday’s afternoon session. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Among those gathered outside was Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El in Aptos, who opposed the cease-fire resolution as it was written. Prior to the meeting Tuesday, Marcus and about 600 members of the synagogue signed a petition asking the City Council to oppose the resolution as it was written.

“We decided to come and advocate for peace and protection for all of our local residents,” said Marcus outside the council chambers. “What I believe we should be doing is to try and support the work on the ground as opposed to taking performative actions that not everybody can agree with and that divides the community.”

Also gathered outside the chambers were members of the group Santa Cruz Mental Health Professionals for Palestine, a group of about 100 local mental health professionals such as Hart Navarra and licensed marriage and family therapist Ellen Garfield.

“Our goal is to support a cease-fire,” said Garfield. “It’s part of our ethical duty as clinicians to support mental health and all life and when we see there is clearly a genocide happening, to speak up about it. It’s been a pleasure to unite with so many of my colleagues and speak up as a group.”

Palestinian Santa Cruz resident Ihlam Far and Temple Beth El Senior Rabbi Paula Marcus wait in line to speak about Resolution 29. Far and Marcus maintained respect for each other and decorum despite opposing views about the resolution. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The language of the original cease-fire resolution, authored by councilmembers Sonja Brunner and Sandy Brown, had seven primary points, which included the acknowledgement of the “the mass suffering of the peoples of Palestine and Israel and the direct impacts to the people of Santa Cruz” and that the city of Santa Cruz “supports all efforts to establish a collaborative monitored agreement to end violence and support peaceful dialogue among all parties and calls for a permanent, sustainable, and immediate ceasefire by all parties such that a future can be created where Palestinians and Israelis can live together with dignity in peace, equality, and justice.”

The original resolution also urges “the release of all hostages, and immediate entry of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, including the restoration of food, water, electricity, medical supplies; and the respect for international humanitarian law; and encourages our community to develop and participate in activities that bring us together, foster tolerance, empathy, education, and understanding of each other and people of all backgrounds and religious faiths.” The resolution also declared that January would be “City of Santa Cruz, California Peace Month.”

Community members lined the council chambers inside and out, and were allowed to trickle in a few people at a time by Fire Department staff and each person who spoke was allowed two minutes to address the council.

Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley calmly facilitated the seemingly interminable line of speakers, and, about a dozen times, paused briefly to calm the boisterous crowd, which was cheering and jeering after each person spoke throughout the meeting.

“Let me make this really clear for the last time,” said Keeley after asking a shouting community member to leave the chambers. “We are going to respect each other here this evening. We don’t interrupt you and you’re not going to interrupt us and you’re not going to interrupt each other.”

More than 250 people spoke in total with the vast majority of speakers speaking in favor of passing the resolution authored by Brunner and Brown as it was written and without any amendments.

“As a Jewish person who has studied the holocaust extensively, I have learned to recognize the signs of genocide and I can say with certainty that what Israel is doing can not be misconstrued as self-defense,” said Santa Cruz resident Justice Silver at the meeting. “I call upon the city of Santa Cruz to join the cities of Oakland and San Francisco to lead by example by passing an unamended resolution demanding an immediate and permanent cease-fire. This is not only to represent the position of the majority of Americans and Santa Cruz residents but also to help preserve the life, liberty and dignity of our fellow humans.”

About 50 of the speakers at the meeting were opposed to the cease-fire resolution such as Rabbi Richard Litvak.

“A cease-fire would have the effect of preserving Hamas as a military power that can continue to control Gaza,” said Litvak at the meeting. “This is not a group that supports a two-state solution. It’s a group that’s dedicated to destroying the state of Israel.”

After everyone who wanted to, spoke, around 2:30 a.m., Sandy Brown moved the cease-fire resolution, and the motion was seconded by Brunner. The two then spoke to the collaborative effort that occurred to create the resolution and misconceptions voiced during public comment.

“I am disappointed that there are people who critiqued it without necessarily knowing what’s in it or the spirit in which it was brought,” said Brown. “I am grateful to have been part of this process, talking to so many people in our community, in this room and outside of this room over the break. I appreciate the time you took to share your perspectives and I’ve learned a lot. I believe we developed this resolution coming from a place of integrity and I have gratitude for my colleague Councilmember Brunner for really diving into this with me, and so many of you.”

After Brunner and Brown made comments, Councilmember Scott Newsome presented a substitute motion, seconded by Councilmember Martine Watkins, that “acknowledges the suffering of the peoples of the Middle East and affirms our shared humanity,” and which did not include any language about Israel, Hamas or a cease-fire.

After the vote to replace the original resolution with the substitute motion was approved by a vote with Brunner and Brown voting against it, the audience erupted. Yelling and chanting by those present prompted the council to cut the meeting’s audio feed and clear the chambers.

The council then voted on the new motion, which passed with Brunner dissenting and Brown absent. The crowd remained outside after the meeting’s conclusion and two windows looking into the council chambers were broken, but no citations were given and no arrests were made.

After the meeting, Marcus said she was pleased with the outcome and approved of the alternate resolution.

“The City Council did the right thing in supporting peace and in affirming the safety of our local residents and avoiding language that was going to cause more division in our community,” said Marcus. “I think they made the right choice.”

Garfield and others with Santa Cruz Mental Health Professionals for Palestine on Wednesday issued a statement expressing their disappointment in the council’s decision to adopt the alternate resolution.

“We, Santa Cruz Mental Health Professionals for Palestine, are deeply disturbed by the outcome of the meeting,” said the group in a statement. “The vast majority of the voices at the City Council meeting, over 80%, were vehemently pro-ceasefire and the city council members let us go on for almost 10 hours, but at the end, showed us that they simply did not care or represent their
constituents.”

To watch the meeting, visit cityofsantacruz.com.

Sentinel reporter Jessica A. York contributed to this report.

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2024-01-11 01:00:09 , Watsonville – Santa Cruz Sentinel

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