District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston (center) thanks supporters of the resolution after it passed 8-3 at San Francisco City Hall, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston (center) thanks supporters of the resolution after it passed 8-3 at San Francisco City Hall, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

S.F. Board of Supervisors adopts compromise Gaza resolution calling for cease-fire and release of hostages

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted a shortened version of a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war that represented a compromise among board members.

Despite the last-minute revisions, the measure failed to gain unanimous support and passed 8-3.

Introduced in December by Supervisor Dean Preston and co-sponsored by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, the cease-fire resolution was one of a bevy of matters on Tuesday’s agenda, including contracts, grants and public art works.

Several cities across the Bay Area have taken up measures calling for a cease-fire since the war began on Oct. 7, often leading to heartfelt pleas for an end to the violence, alongside vitriolic accusations against Israel and bizarre conspiracy theories during public comment periods. Oakland, Richmond and now San Francisco have passed cease-fire calls, while Berkeley, Alameda, Vallejo and Foster City, among others, have considered measures amid intense public meetings.

Board President Aaron Peskin was credited with crafting the compromise measure, which shortened the original version of the resolution to one page. Peskin’s amended resolution was designed to cut out some of the issues that divided board members, such as debating the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Martha, a supporter of the resolution who did not wish to provide her last name, waves a Palestinian flag outside of the Board of Supervisors chamber at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Martha, a supporter of the resolution, waves a Palestinian flag outside of the Board of Supervisors chamber at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

“Let’s dispense with that,” Peskin said. “How about we have a resolution that just resolves that we call for a sustained cease-fire, the provision of life-saving humanitarian aid in Gaza and the release of all hostages.”

The resolution urges the Biden administration to do the same, denounces antisemitism and Islamophobia and condemns the “Netanyahu government’s attacks resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza.”

Peskin, who is Jewish and whose mother was born in Tel Aviv during the British Mandate period, said he was up at 3 a.m. Tuesday thinking about the measure. Preston and Ronen are also Jewish, as are Supervisors Myrna Melgar and Rafael Mandelman.

Citing angry public meetings and frequent disruptions leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Peskin said he was “saddened” that in San Francisco, “we have not succeeded — arguably we have failed — to use this as an opportunity to bring our people on both sides of this divide together.”

There was no public comment before Tuesday’s vote. When it was time to consider the measure, each board member delivered remarks, which were frequently interrupted by cheers, groans, applause and occasional shouts from members of the public. Protesters could be heard outside the chamber, shouting “Cease-fire now.”

Board President Aaron Peskin proposes an amendment to a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza at San Francisco City Hall, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Board President Aaron Peskin proposes an amendment to a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza at San Francisco City Hall, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Those who opposed the resolution said that it didn’t do enough to call out Hamas violence and that a cease-fire agreement with Hamas was untenable.

“I don’t know how you have a cease-fire with a terrorist organization that has recently said it would commit Oct. 7 again and again if it could,” Supervisor Catherine Stefani said, adding that she would not support a measure that did not “call for the removal of Hamas.”

The issue of sexual violence took center stage at the meeting, as supervisors Stefani, Melgar and Matt Dorsey condemned the brutal acts committed against women and girls during the Hamas attack on Israel.

Hamas “showed a pattern of rape, mutilation and extreme brutality against women,” Dorsey said. His speech was frequently interrupted by shouts from the public, including one person who shouted “Liar!” Among the many false conspiracy theories about Oct. 7 are those that deny Hamas committed any sexual violence.

Peskin, who led the meeting, gaveled it back to order when disruptions occurred. “No, no, no, you guys. Just let us do our jobs. And chill out,” he said at one point.

District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen claps after a Gaza ceasefire resolution passes 8-3 at San Francisco City Hall, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen claps after a Gaza ceasefire resolution passes 8-3 at San Francisco City Hall, Jan. 9, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Amid emotional descriptions of the violence committed by Hamas, Dorsey said the board should not “reward terrorism by platforming the grievances that underlie it, even if those grievances are just and legitimate.” He said it was urgent for the board to “be strong and explicit and clear in our condemnation of the terrorist act itself. To do otherwise would send a dangerous and unthinkable message, that terrorism works.”

Dorsey, Stefani and Mandelman voted against the resolution.

Preston, Ronen and Ahsha Safaí were among the supervisors who spoke in support of the measure and voted for its passage, along with Peskin, Melgar, Connie Chan, Joel Engardio and Shamann Walton.

“I know some people think this resolution is not going to do anything,” Safaí said. “It will allow some people in our communities to feel heard and seen for the very first time.” The measure, he added, will “set a tone. It will send a message around the world.”

When the measure was adopted, the room erupted in cheers. Peskin banged the gavel, attempting to gain control, before sending the meeting into recess.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.