25 Oct City of Richmond Officially Stands With People of Palestine
The Richmond City Council passed a resolution Tuesday in support of the people of Palestine 5-1, with one member dissenting and one absent. (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)
By Samantha Kennedy
After hearing over five hours of public comment, the Richmond City Council passed a resolution in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza at its Tuesday meeting.
The council voted 5-1, with council member Cesar Zepeda voting against and Claudia Jimenez absent. Several amendments were made to the resolution, among them acknowledging the 1,400 Israelis killed by Hamas on Oct. 7, calling for the release of Israeli hostages, and expressing empathy for all victims.
Mayor Eduardo Martinez, who co-authored the resolution with Vice Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, said it was necessary for the city to take a stance on this. He pointed to other international issues Richmond has taken stances on — divesting from South Africa because of apartheid in the 1980s and, last year, in support of Ukrainian people — based upon financial or moral reasoning.
“Both instances are worthwhile,” Martinez said. Because American tax dollars are being used to fund the Israeli military, he said, Americans have an “immediate moral obligation to condemn Israel’s acts … and apartheid state.”
The crowd cheered and booed Martinez. Some screamed out, calling him a “Nazi” and accusing him of antisemitism.
The adopted resolution says Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing and collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza. Collective punishment is defined as withholding electricity, water, food and aid in the resolution.
Speakers both in favor of and against the resolution spoke at the meeting after several Bay Area organizations sent out calls for help to pass or stop the resolution.
The Jewish Community Relations Council, which called the resolution “biased and inflammatory” ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, provided talking points in its call to action that criticized language used in the resolution. Some attendees shared the same concerns as JCRC’s points, saying the resolution is one-sided and does not contain completely accurate information. Many speakers who identified themselves as Jewish or Israeli American said the resolution made them feel unsafe.
Martinez acknowledged the fear of Jewish and Israeli American community members but stood by the resolution.
“Jewish people deserve to feel safe. I won’t deny them their very real sense of fear,” he said. “I reject the notion that speaking out against the actions of Israel’s military and right-wing government is antisemitic.”
Those who spoke in favor of the resolution, including organizations that sought the help of community members to pass the resolutions, said Palestinian voices were often ignored by the media and governments. Many Palestinian speakers thanked the council for giving them a voice in this resolution.
The Asian Pacific Environmental Network and East Bay Democratic Socialists of America spoke as allies. APEN provided talking points for advocates of the resolution that praised Richmond’s “brave and necessary act of solidarity” and condemned war crimes by Israel. Some Jewish allies said the resolution targeted not the Jewish community but Israel itself.
Martinez said the one-sidedness of the resolution only seemed that way because of how long Palestinian voices were ignored.
McLaughlin said there is a mainstream media blackout that ignores Palestinian voices and instead focuses on Israeli voices.
“This resolution is a breakthrough of that mainstream media blackout,” McLaughlin said. “We need more breakthroughs.”
“Until the rights of Palestinians are addressed in this conflict,” she said. “We will see more hostilities.”
Council member Doria Robinson shared her experience visiting Ramallah, Golan and Gaza and said she doesn’t think Americans understand what is happening, partly because of the “dominant narrative” that tells them to only have empathy for Israelis.
“When you see what’s happening there, you can’t unsee it,” Robinson said. “ We’ll never ever get anywhere if the only people who are allowed to be humans are Israelis.”
Zepeda, the lone vote against the resolution, proposed amendments to add mentions of healing as a community and create a more complete resolution. McLaughlin refused his amendment. Zepeda said he received over 800 calls and emails about the resolution and nobody was against standing with Palestine.
Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, who represents Richmond, released a statement before the meeting asking the council to help bring together the Jewish and Muslim communities rather than voting on the resolution. He said the original resolution would “only contribute to divisiveness.”
McLaughlin and council member Melvin Willis signed a statement earlier in the week with other California officials that stands with the children of Gaza and calls for peace.
The next Richmond City Council meeting is Nov. 7.