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Mayor’s Proclamation Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza

Alameda Families and Friends for Ceasefire (AFF4C) welcomed Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft ’s proclamation (link downloads PDF) presented at the April 2 City Council meeting honoring the courage and resilience of the Arab American Community, and echoing President Biden’s call in his recent proclamation on Arab American Heritage Month to establish an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Alameda Post - the Alameda Friends and Families for a Ceasefire vigil at City Hall's steps
AFF4C held a peaceful vigil on the steps of City Hall on Sunday, November 26. Photo Kelsey Goeres.

“AFF4C is pleased Mayor Ashcraft has taken this step to express solidarity with the people of Gaza,” Reverend Michael Yoshii said. Alameda Families and Friends for Ceasefire has hundreds of supporters, many of whom have been in attendance at every City Council meeting since November, urging the Council to adopt a resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

April is National Arab American Heritage Month and this year’s theme is “Celebrating Arab American Resilience and Diversity.” In her proclamation, the Mayor noted that “California is home to more than 700,000 Arab Americans, the largest Arab American population of the fifty states (UCSF Office of Diversity and Outreach).” Mayor Ashcraft, whose family hails from Lebanon and Syria, has the distinction of being the first Arab-American mayor of Alameda, and the only Arab-American mayor in the Bay Area.

The Mayor’s proclamation also quoted President Biden, whose proclamation cited “the trauma, death, and destruction in Gaza [that] have claimed, and continue to claim, far too many innocent lives, including family and friends of Arab Americans across our Nation.” Israel’s ongoing violence and indiscriminate bombing in Gaza has killed over 32,000 Palestinian civilians, including more than 13,000 children, and has injured 70,000 civilians, displaced 1.9 million people, destroyed critical infrastructure, and cut off food, water, fuel, and healthcare.

“Honoring Arab American Heritage Month this year means acknowledging the pain and anguish that every Arab American is experiencing right now, that every Palestinian American is experiencing,” Mayor Ashcraft said. “Gaza is at the forefront of all of our minds.”

In January of this year, Alameda City Council failed to endorse a letter from the Mayor calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, despite hours of impassioned public comment and hundreds or submissions from residents in favor of ceasefire. In her letter, Mayor Ashcraft remarked, “We were not elected to simply represent our constituents, but also to set an example of ethical leadership. For those reasons, we believe we have no choice but to strongly encourage the U.S. government to reconsider its current policy and support an immediate ceasefire.”

Mayor Ashcraft’s proclamation has been well received by Arab-American residents of Alameda. “The past few months have been incredibly painful for me and my community,” said Yosra, an Egyptian-born child psychiatrist and Alameda resident. “Witnessing the dehumanization of my community members and a lack of urgency from our elected officials in addressing the humanitarian tragedy that has been unfolding in Gaza often leaves me feeling helpless and estranged. The Mayor’s proclamation makes me feel seen and valued as an Arab American Alamedan, and reignites my faith in the power of a united community.”

Gabriel Manassian, an Alameda resident of Lebanese descent, expressed similar feelings. “I know that personally it’s been difficult not to feel isolated in facing my own trauma from Israeli aggression and continuously mourning the loss of life and destruction of the infrastructure and culture of Gaza. I have found support in AFF4C and I hope that this proclamation is a sign of actions that are to come,” he said.

“As we give appreciation for the proclamation we also know that much more can be done through our local municipalities and especially the Biden Administration,” Reverend Yoshii added. “Palestine is the moral compass for the world in this moment, and the U.S. has been failing the moral test.  We have the political power to end the crisis in Gaza & also advocate for freedom and justice for all Palestinians. But this requires movement from our spiritual bankruptcy to a collective moral fortitude.”

Laura Thomas is a housing activist in Alameda and a member of Alameda Families and Friends for a Ceasefire.

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