San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a mournful gathering at Congregation Sherith Israel on Oct. 8, 2023, the day after a surprise Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a mournful gathering at Congregation Sherith Israel on Oct. 8, 2023, the day after a surprise Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Jewish orgs push S.F. Mayor London Breed to veto cease-fire resolution

Update Jan. 20 at 10:45 a.m.: San Francisco mayor London Breed said in a statement on Friday that she would not veto the cease-fire resolution, citing a responsibility to “uphold the safety and cohesion of San Francisco,” among other factors. Her full statement can be read here

Three mainstream Jewish organizations are pressing San Francisco Mayor London Breed to veto a Board of Supervisors resolution approved last week that called for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war following a series of divisive public meetings.

The mayor hasn’t said whether she will veto the measure, even as she criticized it for unleashing a wave of vitriolic and antisemitic remarks in the board’s chambers and for taking up “complex matters over which we have absolutely no jurisdiction.”

A veto would be quite rare, particularly for a nonbinding resolution, her office said. Spokesperson Jeff Cretan told J. that her decision could be expected “later this week,” before the 10-day deadline for mayoral action on resolutions.

Pressure is coming from the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area and the regional offices of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

The organizations released a joint statement on Tuesday that lambasted the Board of Supervisors for creating a “circus” that was uniquely damaging to the Jewish community. The text of the cease-fire resolution was a compromise that condemned violence on both sides. But in footage of a public meeting last week that went viral online, people could be heard booing and jeering supervisors who mentioned atrocities committed by Hamas, including rape. In one striking video, attendees harangued a speaker who shared that multiple family members were murdered and two taken hostage in the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack.

“Given the unprecedented harm this charade has caused the Jewish community, a veto would send a strong message in support of our safety and belonging in San Francisco,” said the statement, signed by JCRC CEO Tye Gregory, ADL regional director Marc Levine and AJC regional deputy director Oleg Ivanov. “The resolution created a deeply toxic atmosphere, and we agree with the Mayor’s statement that the circus at City Hall did not reflect San Francisco’s values.”

The call for a veto has placed Breed in a tricky position.

While the three organizations frame themselves as representatives of the city’s Jewish community as a whole, there is considerable disagreement on the topic — including among Jewish and pro-Israel supervisors.

Board President Aaron Peskin, who is Jewish and whose mother was born in pre-state Tel Aviv, told J. on Wednesday he would have preferred that the board not take up the resolution in the first place. But he was satisfied with the version that passed with an 8-3 majority. In addition to calling for a “sustained cease-fire,” the resolution condemned both Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people and Israel’s response that “has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands” of Palestinians. The resolution also called for the release of the hostages and condemned antisemitism and Islamophobia.

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)

Peskin sharply rebuked the mayor over the possibility of a veto, saying it would be a “craven political move” that wouldn’t benefit the city.

“I think it will only lead to more recriminations within the community,” he said, adding that in his view, the nonbinding resolution the board passed “balanced the needs of San Franciscans from many communities” and “calmed people down.”

“I can just tell you, in the emails and personal interactions that I’ve had with many members of the San Francisco Jewish community, they thought that we struck the right tone,” he said. A veto “is going to be a step backward.”

A veto could also breathe more life into the issue. If Breed were to veto the resolution, a single supervisor could reschedule it, putting it back on the agenda. Another 8-3 vote could override the veto. Additional public comment would not be allowed — but that would not stop demonstrators from showing up, chanting outside the chambers or even shouting during board meetings as they did last week.

Cretan, Breed’s spokesperson, said he did not know how many times Breed has exercised her mayoral veto since taking office in 2017, but “rarely does it happen,” he said.

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who is Jewish and voted for the resolution, told J. on Wednesday that she is tired of the vitriol that the issue has caused and is ready to move on. Melgar did say, however, that she understood the perspectives of the Jewish organizations pressing the mayor.

“The community’s gotta do what it’s gotta do,” she said. “I don’t fault anyone for feeling like in a democratic process they need to” make their voices heard.

“I think personally, it’s a mistake,” she added. “I don’t want to give a public platform — a televised public platform — for this kind of toxicity and division again.”

In their statement, the JCRC, ADL and AJC noted the torrent of anti-Israel animosity and a spike in hate crimes targeting Jews since Oct. 7, which has been especially pronounced in the Bay Area.

Since the Hamas massacre that started the war, the Bay Area has seen the second highest number of antisemitic incidents after New York, the ADL’s Levine said, a tally that includes extreme anti-Israel statements.

“We’re seeing antisemitism at near its very worst here,” Levine said. “We’ve seen more antisemitism in the last three-month period, than the entire year before Oct. 7.”

Whether the supervisors “are trying to be even-handed, whether they’re trying to be peace-seeking, whether they’re trying to assuage the emotions of people who may be their constituents, their actions actually fanned the flames of antisemitism,” he said. “They have been used to inflict harm on the community.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

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