Ceasefire Resolutions Roil Local and National Politics

Foreign Policy Brief #120 | By: Mindy Spatt| February 08, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.kqed.org

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Advocates for a Ceasefire in Gaza in the US are taking their demands to local legislative bodies and facing fierce pushback even in liberal enclaves like San Francisco.  While the impact of these resolutions on the war is questionable, there’s no question that they will have an impact on upcoming elections and some politician’s political futures in local, state and national races, all the way up to the presidency.

Analysis

Even in a city with as rich a history of activism as San Francisco, the numbers that turned out at City Hall to either support or oppose a resolution calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza were unusual.  The few hundred seats in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers quickly filled up, and the line of people who wanted to speak during public comment stretched all around the Hall’s massive rotunda.  The vast majority of them were in favor of Supervisor Dean Preston’s Ceasefire resolution, but opponents of the measure also spoke passionately.  Early in the debate some Supervisors questioned whether the matter was appropriate for their consideration or was too far afield for city government, but it quickly became clear that for many residents of San Francisco including Zionists, Jews, Palestinian-Americans and Health Care workers, the conflict was deeply personal and having an enormous impact on their families, friends and colleagues.

Before the final vote on a revised resolution offered by Board President Aaron Peskin that won passage 8-3, Supervisors on both sides of the debate noted that the thousands  of calls, emails and visits from constituents about the issue were unprecedented.  But the vote wasn’t the end of the debate by a long shot.  Mayor London Breed publicly condemned the resolution, perhaps because opponents were pressuring her to attempt a veto, which she didn’t do.  The issue appears to be dividing the gay community especially. The Castro District is represented by one of the supervisors that opposed the resolution and by a state Senator, Scott Weiner, who criticized a mass Ceasefire demonstration at the state capitol earlier in the month.  Both of them are gay and traditionally supported by the gay community, but they risk losing that support as many in the LGBTQ community are speaking out against the war and expressing solidarity with Palestinians.  Two recent marches in the Castro District sponsored by activist groups Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT) and Gay Shame attracted thousands of people.

The controversy has moved to the City’s influential and left leaning Harvey Milk Club, which recently rescinded its endorsement of President Biden for the primary only, a move criticized by Senator Weiner.  But across the country Biden’s unwillingness to call for a Ceasefire, stop the flow of arms to Israel or demand an end to the mass casualties and destruction is alienating young people, people of color and progressives, all important voting blocks for Biden.

Even Vice President Kamala Harris, back home in the Bay for a an event in San Jose highlighting to administration’s efforts to protect abortion rights, drew Ceasefire protestors.  President Biden has been met by protestors on the campaign trail as well, including in South Carolina during a speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and in Michigan, a swing state with a large Arab American community

As more cities join the call for a Ceasefire and decisions by the World Court and a Federal District Court in Oakland agree that what is taking place in Gaza is genocide, the political pressure on Biden is increasing.  That may have been what prompted him to issue an executive order on February 1 sanctioning 4 West Bank settlers, which is unlikely to placate any Ceasefire advocates.

Engagement Resources:

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