A Palestinian American teenager urges the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to support a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, Dec. 5, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
A Palestinian American teenager urges the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to support a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, Dec. 5, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

S.F. supervisor introduces cease-fire resolution amid ‘very real pain’

Updated Dec. 7 at 1:45 p.m.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists filled San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, marching through its corridors and fervently chanting “Cease-fire now!” in support of a resolution introduced by Supervisor Dean Preston.

Demonstrators heeded calls published on social media and via email from organizations including the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Jewish Voice for Peace and Council on American-Islamic Relations to attend the meeting in large numbers to voice their approval for the measure. The resolution calls for a “sustained ceasefire in Gaza, humanitarian aid [and] release of hostages” and condemns “antisemitic, anti-Palestinian, and Islamophobic rhetoric and attacks.”

A line of people waiting to speak during the public comment period — nearly all of them in support of the resolution as evidenced by their chants and kaffiyehs — snaked down and around several corridors in City Hall. The number of visibly pro-Israel supporters waiting in line was sparse.

 

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Preston, who is Jewish, delivered a plea to his colleagues to support his resolution. In addition to calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, he said, the measure takes a strong stand against rhetoric and attacks rooted in racial and religious prejudice, and condemns anti-Jewish and anti-Palestinian hate.

“I think it can be hard for non-Jews to understand the damage that the brutal attack on Oct. 7 did worldwide to the sense of security and safety of Jews,” said Preston, a staunch progressive who ran as a Democratic Socialist. “Right now, with rising hate, so many Jews, Israelis, Palestinians and Muslims here in San Francisco simply do not feel safe in our community.”

Prior to the Board of Supervisors meeting, the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area held a short vigil and planted 136 small Israeli flags in the lawn of nearby Civic Center Plaza. The flags represented the estimated number of people still held hostage by Hamas.

Supervisors Matt Dorsey, Catherine Stefani, Rafael Mandelman and Myrna Melgar, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-S.F.) and Jewish community leaders attended the vigil. Eleven supervisors serve on the board altogether.

Both Wiener and Mandelman raised concerns about the resolution. It was introduced days after a video went viral on social media showing several people at a Nov. 27 Oakland City Council meeting speaking in support of Hamas and offering conspiracy theories about the Oct. 7 terrorist attack. 

“If the fight comes to the Board of Supervisors, it’s not going to be me that introduces it. We need to stay in our lane,” Mandelman said at the vigil.

Rabbi Jonathan Singer of Congregation Emanu-El also spoke at the vigil.

“Those that call for a cease-fire and do not condemn Hamas should be ashamed of themselves,” he said, according to JCRC Bay Area. “We must call out these terrorists and pray for a time of peace where a Jewish state can thrive among Arab states.”

The line for public comment stretched several hundred people long at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, as the Board of Supervisors considered a resolution supporting a cease-fire in Gaza. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
The line for public comment stretched several hundred people long at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, as a resolution supporting a cease-fire in Gaza was introduced to the Board of Supervisors. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Preston’s resolution acknowledges that the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 people in Israel, was “brutal.” The resolution uses the word “militants” to refer to the attack’s perpetrators, rather than “terrorists.”

Inside the supervisors’ chamber, Preston discussed the pain felt by Jews since Oct. 7, adding that in his view, some of the pain had been “weaponized” for political reasons.

“It is beyond tragic to see antisemitic opportunists and conspiracy theorists seize this moment to deny atrocities against Jews,” Preston said, “and equally tragic how the very 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.”

Similar to the Nov. 27 Oakland council meeting, many of the speakers in San Francisco used more extreme language about Israel than is found in the resolution itself.

During the seven hours of public comment, the vast majority of speakers, including self-described anti-Zionist Jews, condemned Israel. Accusations against Israel of “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” “colonization” and “apartheid” surfaced repeatedly. 

“The sanctity of life is not and has never been Israel’s mission,” said one speaker with an “end apartheid” cardboard sign hanging like a necklace.

The introduction of the resolution was met with cheers from Palestinian supporters. They shouted words of encouragement to Preston as he wiped tears from his eyes several times during his speech. He noted the personal tragedy for a Palestinian American friend, who had informed him earlier in the day about the deaths of seven family members overnight in Gaza — adding to the toll of more than 100 relatives who have been killed there since Oct. 7.

According to the Hamas-controlled health ministry, more than 15,000 Palestinians have died in Israel’s war in Gaza.

“The extent of the death and destruction is still hard to fathom,” Preston said.

The resolution comes after fighting in Gaza resumed following a weeklong cease-fire in late November that included Hamas releasing 105 of the estimated 240 people it took hostage on Oct. 7.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who is Jewish, co-sponsored the resolution. Ronen spoke of her Israeli father and close family members who still live in Tel Aviv, citing her identity as a major reason she felt called to support a cease-fire.

“By supporting the resolution before us and calling for an end to the killing, hostages, bombing, starving and dehumanization of people in Palestine and Israel, that I am not antisemitic. I am not one-sided. I am not overstepping the bounds of my job. And I am not pro-Hamas,” Ronen said. “I am engaging very thoughtfully in a conflict fueled by my and my constituents’ tax dollars. And this conflict is deeply rooted in my personal life and my identity. The world must finally stand up and demand a lasting peace for Israel and Palestine.”

It’s unclear when the board will vote on the resolution. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it may not happen until the new year.

San Francisco is one of several cities across the country that have either considered or enacted resolutions urging a permanent cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. Opponents of such measures point to the fact that Hamas continues to hold civilian hostages and that its leadership has pledged, if given the chance, to repeat the Oct. 7 attack.

Cease-fire resolutions have passed in Richmond and Oakland, though with differing language and specifics. Last week, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín rejected calls to introduce a similar cease-fire resolution.

The San Francisco resolution follows two months of pro-Palestinian protests in the Bay Area, including a shutdown of the Bay Bridge, a sit-in at a federal building in Oakland, the blocking of a ship allegedly carrying military supplies at the Port of Oakland, the interruption of the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento and many rallies and marches that have drawn thousands of participants.

Lea Loeb
(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Lea Loeb

Lea Loeb is engagement reporter at J. She previously served as editorial assistant.

Aaron Levy-Wolins
Aaron Levy-Wolins

Aaron Levy-Wolins is J.'s photographer. See more of his work on Instagram @aaron_levywolins and @jewishnews_sf.