Opposition to City Council item 10-D on January 2, 2024
Council Should Not Weigh In
To the Editor:
Mayor Ashcraft has submitted a letter for the January 2, 2023, City Council meeting that the Council support a ceasefire in Gaza. While the events occurring there are horrific, we strongly agree with Rabbi Cynthia Minster’s statement that, “The silent majority of our community respects political differences including the distinction between items within the purview of the City and beyond it. I urge you to continue working on the local issues that belong on the Council agenda. Citizens should advocate at the federal level on foreign policy. The only thing local resolutions accomplish is increasing division within our community.”
We request that the Council refrain from weighing in on this issue.
Karen and Keith Miller,
Mayor’s Letter Will Increase Division and Animosity
Dear Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft:
Thank you for meeting with Jewish Alamedans and myself today. I am sorry that illness kept me from attending in person.
As I said during our meeting, I do not believe a letter on behalf of our city is an appropriate use of council time. I recognize that you placed it on the agenda from a place of deep concern for all civilians affected by the conflict. On the other hand, I disagree with you that there is only one morally appropriate response to the state of war Hamas created on October 7.
I was involved in peace activism for many years prior to attending rabbinical school. While serving as the Program Chair for the U.S. Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, I was selected to co-lead a fact-finding mission to Israel and Palestine. Yet, despite my years of work on the issue, other American activists distrusted me so much that they got the trip scuttled by cutting off funding. Why did people who had worked with me for years distrust me so much? First because I’m a Jew and second, because I didn’t want to use rhetoric that painted all Israelis / Jews as evil.
Ultimately, after using an extraordinary amount of personal time on peace activism, I formally cut ties with the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom. Though I remain quite proud of many of its accomplishments during my time as a member (especially UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions that insist on women’s involvement in peace-building), I realized that the primary thing being accomplished by its activism on Israel and Palestine was making Jews less safe globally.
Similarly, my activism with the U.S. Conference of Mayors was as an outsider, lobbying local mayors and working with a national coalition of activists to promote the passage of the resolution Calling on Congress to End the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Bring the Money Home to the Needs of Our Cities.
That was 10 years after those wars began, not two months. Additionally, my political perspective has widened since 2011. It is quite difficult for citizens, even locally elected politicians, to affect foreign policy. I deeply understand how frustrating that is, as the proper functioning of the UN and international norms was what I cared about most as an activist.
I am willing to participate in listening sessions that help bridge the divides between communities on the island. I believe in the power of well-facilitated dialogue. I do not believe your letter, or the public comments to the agenda item at the January 2, 2023 Alameda City Council Meeting, will improve the quality of life for citizens of Alameda or civilians anywhere in the world. It will only increase division and animosity between people here in Alameda and will not have any effect on US foreign policy.
All this referral does is legitimize anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias by making it seem that the primary impediment to peace is Israel and Israel’s military choices. As Superintendent Scuderi said in his letter to the AUSD community, we aren’t going to figure out the solution to the war in Alameda. The most we can do is hold space where everyone is truly welcome.
Rabbi Cynthia Minster
Temple Israel of Alameda.
(The Alameda Post received a copy of the Rabbi’s email to the mayor.)
Withdraw Item 10-D, Gaza is Outside City’s Purview
To the Editor:
Our current mayor’s judgement is questioned by her placing a letter supporting a Gaza Ceasefire (Item 10-D) on the City Council agenda for next Tuesday January 2, 2023. It is bound to be an emotional, tension-filled meeting, with substantial police presence. This is a bad way for our City to begin the New Year.
This letter will not bring our different ethnic groups together, but instead will further divide them and the community while causing anxiety and angst. If this referral Item 10-D is approved, Alameda Jews will feel marginalized and “othered” because of the perceived association with Israel.
This issue is not within the purview of our City Council. That is, our City Charter clearly states that the responsibility of the City Council is municipal affairs, not national. Yet our Council must regularly perform at meetings until the late hour of midnight because legitimate city issues are so numerous and complex. It does not make sense to take on a national issue over which we have no control. This letter is a useless gesture that should not be endorsed.
The Ukrainian/Russian war has been going on for over a year. Yet, if Ukrainians came before our Council protesting Russia invading their country, would the City of Alameda take an official position demanding Russia to withdraw? No, we know the City of Alameda would not propose such an action because it would be a pointless action that would only cost the City time, energy, and money and take away from other legitimate issues.
With respect to the war in Gaza, taking a position is not only pointless but also hazardous to the health of Alameda Jewish and Muslim residents—including their school age children. Some of those children have already experienced antisemitism and Islamophobia since this war began.
The mayor is quite aware that both antisemitism and Islamophobia have greatly increased nationally in 2023. And certainly, still more since the Hamas attack of October 7. I can only hope that upon reconsideration, Mayor Ashcraft will withdraw her letter. Overall, it is not good for Alameda.
If you also think that this ceasefire letter will only do more harm than good to the reputation and integrity of Alameda and its 78,000-person population, please take a minute before next Tuesday and write an email to the City Council asking them to withdraw the letter and put this matter to rest. This letter, however well meant, is NOT good for the overall health of our city.
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