The Gaza resolution


I know that the discussion over the John Avalos/Sophie Maxwell resolution on the Gaza flotilla took a long time, and kept the supervisors and assorted city employees at work until midnight, and Sweet Melissa says that cost the city some money. And she makes the same argument we hear all the time when these things come up:

Run for Congress. Jump onto a plane. Send money to a worthy organization. But don’t pat yourselves on the back for a job well done for getting a resolution passed at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. No one cares what supervisors in San Francisco think about foreign policy — not other governments, not the U.S. government and especially not those of us who live here.

And while I agree that the Avalos/Maxwell resolution was long, and isn't going to change anyone's foreign policy, and a lot of the other supervisors wish the thing had never come up and consider it a terrible time suck, let me gently argue the contrary.

I remember back in 1984, when a group of Berkeley activists put a measure on that city's ballot calling on the United States to reduce its aid to Israel by the amount that Israel was spending on settlements in the occupied territories. It bitterly divided the Berkeley City Council, stirred up a giant fuss on the city's left and led to a long, dramatic meeting of the progressive coalition called Berkeley Citizens Action. BCA was at that point the equivalent of a political party that dominated city politics.

There were some BCA members who thought the measure was horrible, anti-semitic and needed to be killed. There were some who argued that the situation in the occupied territories was so bad that Americans needed to take a stand. There were others who said this was none of Berkeley's business -- much as a lot of San Francisco pundits say that the Avalos resolution was none of San Francisco's business.

But I was there and I watched all of this come down -- and in the end, it was a good thing for Berkeley, for progressive politics, and for the way the left in the Bay Area thought about the Middle East.

Lee Halterman, who was an aide to then-Rep Ron Dellums, chaired the BCA meeting where the measure was debated, and he did a fabulous job -- everyone got a chance to speak, nobody was cut off, the discussion was remarkably civil and in the end, the group voted not to endorse either side. "This was healthy for BCA," Halterman told me afterward. "This was a discussion that we needed to have."

I didn't know much of anything about the politics of Israel's settlement policies back then, and I got quite an education. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination committee folks came down to the Guardian and -- calmly, without harsh rhetoric, explained why the continuing settlement construction was creating a serious obstacle to future peace (they were absolutely right). I learned that John B. Oakes, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times, had written a series of columns saying, in essence, that building all the new settlements was going to make a two-state solution almost impossible. Slowly, political observers who fully supported Israel on almost every issue were starting to question the Israeli government's actions.

We heard the other side, too: Anna Rabkin, the Berkeley city auditor and an icon on the Berkeley left, came in and told us how painful this would be to progressive Jews and how harmful it would be to the progressive agenda. She made a powerful, impassioned argument. 

And all of this came to a head with a ballot campaign that generated both heat and light. We endorsed Measure E (I wrote the endorsement myself); it went down overwhelmingly, but it got a lot of people thinking. I think today it would pass overwhelmingly. And while the usual snipers complained the "Berserkeley" was wasting everyone's time and money on a foreign policy statement that nobody would pay attention to anyway, I think a lot of us were glad it happened.

And I think that the members of Congress who represented the Bay Area were paying close attention.

So let's not trash the Avalos/Maxwell resolution so quickly. Sometimes these debates are good; sometimes they help the local voters -- who, after all, decide who to elect to Congress, the U.S. Senate and the White House -- hear conflicting sides of a complicated story.

The Gaza flotilla wasn't just about breaking the blockade; it was about getting people in the United States to pay attention to a terrible situation that the daily papers and TV stations typically ignore. I don't see why it's so bad for the San Francisco supervisors to help spread that word. 


...between paying a nod to progressive values, and not pissing off all the people who consider the issue untouchable.

Not exactly what I would call "leadership," but we'll leave that to the likes of John and Sophie. Safer that way, I suppose...

Better than nothin', though.

Posted by Greg Kamin on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

If you don't agree with the foreign policy of the USA you have to pay for it anyways, which makes so called progressives angry, if you don't agree with the foreign policy of San Francisco's so called progressives you have to pay for it anyways, which makes so called progressives indifferent.

I think the USA should cut the financial strings to Israel in certain areas, and yet on the local level there are people who may think otherwise.

The people who pay taxes on the local level and agree with Israel 100 percent are getting a huge "fuck you" from the SF progressives. Although I don't agree with the 100% pro Israel types, their taxes shouldn't go to the kooky progressives attempts to make foreign policy.

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

I would argue that we have come a long way from that Berkeley resolution, and that there is a building critical mass which is very close to openly challenging Israel's occupation, in majority numbers, and that Maxwell and Avalos' resolution is therefore much more than either symbolic, or generating of debate.

It is instead a strong signal to others here, and all over the world, that some US public leaders are no longer afraid of the reactionary Zionist lobby and will now challenge Israel's impunity in public.

This gives others permission to do so themselves, and this in turn will begin to bring the apartheid wall, both figuratively and literally, down.

So this moment in time is much more similar to that sudden emergence when public critical mass finally broke against South Africa, and the worldwide boycott and divestment spread like wildfire soon to bring down the South African apartheid regime.

In simply raising this resolution, San Francisco knocks a brick out of that wall of oppression, and so let's in light by which others can see to knock out more bricks, and at progressively faster and more voluminous rates, with the job soon to be done.

This is why the SF Green Party has now joined the worldwide boycott and divestment of Israel, even though our meager grassroots economic power on its own poses no grave threat to Israel's economy. It does however show others that they can now be brave enough to openly do the same. And sooner than later, together, those of us fighting oppression and apartheid will win the day due to sheer mass of numbers.

SF Green Party's boycott statement is at

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

In actuality it matters not at all.

And the use of "Zionist reactionary lobby" is really unacceptable when many San Franciscans, Jewish and not, consider themselves to be Zionists.

Discussion is fine - I've no problem with discussion on this issue. The city taking a stand is another thing entirely. Not in my name they don't.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

As a Jew who supports the Avalos resolution, I would like to pointy out that being anti-Israeli government is not being anti Israel or anti-Jewish, certainly not anti-semitic. It is being against the right wing government of Netanyahu. Don't buy the conservative line that positions such as this divides the Jewish community. There are real differences with in the Jewish community as there are in any ethnic community. All Jews want the same thing, Peace in Israel/occupied territories. However, we differ on how to achieve that peace.

If you support Netanyahu and other conservative Israelis, you support peace at the expense of the Palestinians. If you take the more progressive stance of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, you support peace that protects the rights of Arabs as well as Jews.

Incidentally, the Shoah has nothing to do with any of this. There are families of Holocaust survivors and holocaust victims on both sides.

Finally I am glad that Tim Redmond brought up the Berkeley City Council vote. In 1984!!! Since then things have only become worse. It is time to push this issue forward. Votes by local communities were very important in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and are equally as important in the fight against apartheid in Palestine. Thanks Tim

Posted by Guest Catherine Cusic on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

You would be OK with a city council that used tax dollars to pass a resolution supporting operation rescue if the majority of the citizens were supposedly for it?

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 19, 2010 @ 10:42 am

Are you reading from the talking points of the International Solidarity Movement Catherine? Because so far you're the only person to have brought that up.

And do you find it ironic that you have so clearly divided people into different camps on this issue - with no in-between? "If you're supportive of this you're bad." "If you're supportive of this you're good."

Actually Catherine there's a great deal of in-between here. And as I said earlier neither side has clean hands and there are compelling arguments to be made by both. Your Bushian worldview - that everything is cut and dried and black and white - is shocking for its lack of depth and understanding of what really is an incredibly complex situation.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 19, 2010 @ 11:59 am

This tired old conservative argument that the Palestine conflict is somehow 'complex' and that a full spectrum of opinions should continue to be debated on this stuff ad nauseam, is frankly absurd.

This situation is actually pretty simple:

Since the early 1900s governments like Britain and the U.S. (which want to control oil, gas and global geopolitical power) have helped radical reactionary Zionists (note that I am making the distinction of -reactionary- Zionists) to illegally take over Palestinian lands and eject millions of innocent people from their homes; killing tens of thousands of them in the process, and imposing a brutal, completely illegal occupation on the rest.

The obvious solution is for Israel to stop breaking international law and end its genocidal occupation immediately.

Now that this insanity has gone on for an entire century, it is clear that only a strong boycott and divestment movement will get Israel to become rational.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 19, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

"genocidal occupation"

You simplified things to the Bush level for us all.

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 20, 2010 @ 2:04 am

Since Israel was formed, it has illegally attacked and occupied Palestinian lands with the express and even openly admitted purpose of driving Palestinians off of the land so that it can be taken over by Israel to establish its 'Jewish' state.

Israel's occupation has indeed succeeded in shoving millions of Palestinians off of that land, and its current oppressive occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are expressly meant to make living in those regions so impossible that the Palestinians leave. Once again, Israeli leaders have openly stated that this is their purpose in the occupation.

Since Israel is indeed engaged in an occupation, and since 'genocide' is the act of eliminating an entire people from its land by killing, removal, driving out, and denial of means of survival, 'genocidal occupation' is clearly the most accurate way to describe Israel's acts.

What about this obvious fact do you not grasp?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 20, 2010 @ 10:09 am

the word genocide, then the various Arab states that use and abuse the Palestinians are guilty of same.

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 20, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

Word Origin & History


1944, apparently coined by Polish-born U.S. jurist Raphael Lemkin in his work "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe" [p.19], in reference to Nazi extermination of Jews, lit. "killing a tribe," from Gk. genos "race, kind" (see genus) + -cide...

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 20, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

The neighboring Muslim states could careless about the Palestinians other than as a political point, they also don't want to let terrorists into their countries by letting in any actual Palestinians to live and stay. We are using your world view here. As I said I'm not a 100% Israel type, while you just repeat extremist rhetoric.

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 6:26 am

The Secretary General of the UN, The UN itself on over 300 occasions, the International Committee of the Red Cross, international courts, and scores of independent human rights organizations, have repeatedly made clear that Israel is in flagrant and oppressive violation of international law.

Most recent of these was the Red Cross which said last Monday that Israel's blockade on Gaza violates the 4th Geneva Convention, which bans "collective punishment" of a civilian population. The Red Cross then called called on Israel to lift the blockade.

So tell me - in what way is it extremist to point out that Israel is breaking international law and demand that it stop doing so..?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 9:12 am

You write as if the determination of any one individual or organization means Israel is "breaking the law." A judgment as to whether a state is "breaking the law" is made by the ICJ or the UN Security Council and only the UN Security Council had the authority, under international law, to mandate punishment for such a breach.

I'd like an independent investigation into what happened. I don't accept the pronouncements of any individual or organization as adequate evidence of Israel's "guilt."

FYI - South Africa was a pariah state which had been stripped of its seat in the UN General Assembly and was under comprehensive world-wide sanctions, including flight bans. The comparison of South Africa with Israel is specious and absurd on every count. It's intellectual laziness on your part to keep insisting otherwise.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

You either did not read my full post very carefully, or you really seek to dig yourself deeply into blatant falsehood. Whatever your name is - since you don't have the guts to reveal your true identity amid all of your vitriolic rants - you are just becoming more and more difficult to take seriously.

For decades, nearly every country on the planet has repeatedly recognized Israel's occupation as illegal, not solely the Secretary General. Every time there is a vote on the matter, the UN General Assembly votes at around 187 to 5 to validate that Israel's various atrocities are completely illegal and must stop immediately. And since the Secretary General does in fact head the world government and recently repeated that the blockade is illegal, it seems a bit more than relevant to at least mention it...

And his is just one opinion among a cavalcade to which I have been calling our attention.

Very interesting that you mention the ICJ as being so definitive.

Read the following from the United Nations news service:

"International Court of Justice finds Israeli barrier in Palestinian territory is illegal

9 July 2004 – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion today that Israel's building of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory is illegal and said construction must stop immediately and Israel should make reparations for any damage caused."

This court to which you lend so much authority seems to have rendered a pretty clear opinion. In fact, someone like yourself who professes to be so knowledgeable about the situation in Palestine and wields the name of the ICJ with such gravity, should certainly have already known that the ICJ declared the Wall illegal. And yet you find yourself so easily caught with your pants down so foolishly attempting and failing, to use the ICJ as a foil.

But there's the rub isn't it... In reality, you don't have the slightest clue of the actual facts around what you are talking about.

But even ignorance is not enough for you; you then pile on sheer vile Machiavellian cynicism.

You claim (once again inaccurately) that only the Security Council can mandate punishment.

Since everyone knows that the Security Council (which itself by the way has in fact declared Israel in breach of international law) allows the U.S. the power to veto its decisions; and since the U.S. -never- votes to approve any effective sanctions against Israel even when all of the other countries on the Council agree to do so; it is of course a foregone conclusion that the Security Council will never do anything to stop the illegal occupation. You seem to be unfathomably claiming that since it is very difficult to hold Israel accountable for its illegal actions, that this somehow makes Israel's actions legal. How does that follow? If I assault someone and never go to jail for it, then I am not guilty? Give me a break.

On your point around guilt, since we are in fact talking about over 60 years of Israeli lawbreaking and not just the Flotilla incident, Israel's guilt has already been well established. The primary crime we are talking about here is the Occupation, not one incident at sea; an incident however, which is on its face blitheringly illegal, hence over 50 countries have already rightly condemned it.

In the comparison to South Africa, Israel's behavior is almost precisely the same in nature as that of South Africa, except that by most measures Israel's behavior is actually far worse and more devastating, is also far more international in the scope of its illegality, and is far more dangerous to international peace and security. At least South Africa had the cynical sense to focus its abuses internally on people within its own borders.

And the fact that the European Jews, which Israel so easily holds up as an excuse for its evil behavior, suffered the same type of genocidal oppression under the Nazis, makes the hypocrisy of Israel's actions far more profound, ugly, and inexcusable.

Pariah state?

Look around you at the global reaction to the Gaza massacre and the Flotilla attack. Israel is well on its way.

Just as South Africa's impunity was ended, so shall be Israel's...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

1. The United Nations is not a "world government" it's a multinational institution. The Secretary-General is the head of the United Nations, not the President of the World. And how you draw the line from his making a statement to that statement comprising prima facie evidence of Israel's "guilt" is absurd. Is that a courtesy you extend only to the Secretary-General or does it extend to all leaders - whom you seem to feel are granted God-like powers of perception and judgement.
2. The General Assembly can pass any resolution it wants on any subject it wants but that doesn't change the fact that those resolutions are pieces of paper without the force of international law. The GA doesn't make law - and that's according to the charter of the UN.

And you are now the first person to invoke the Nazis in this argument, proving once again Godwin's Law, which states "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches."

Congrats on that. Being mind-numbingly boring and predictable is, it seems, one of the few skills at which you excel.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

Which under international law gives it a stronger case for its existence than most states, if you're going to take that tack on it.

Eric you really need to learn what "international law" means before using it as a shield for all of your lame arguments. "International law" doesn't mean "defiance of radical opinion."

And it's interesting to note the irony of progressives such as yourself using Bush-like rhetoric to define what are enormously complex problems. Bush said the same thing about Iraq - that it wasn't really that complex, all it needed was the removal of Saddam.

And how did that turn out?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 19, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

Give me a break.

Just because the nation of Israel was formed by a decision of the United Nations doesn't give it any more right to exist than any other nation. The idea is laughable.

And it certainly doesn't give Israel the right to repeatedly break international law; continuously committing murder and genocide in an effort to expand its territory and get control of Palestinian resources - most prominently water. (It is also notable that there is a natural gas reserve off the coast of Gaza...)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 20, 2010 @ 10:21 am

Google this: Sophie Maxwell (co-wrote Gaza resolution) + Bevan Dufty (tabled Gaza resolution) + AIPAC = WAY TOO MUCH FUN!!!

Posted by Googlemaniac (GOOD AIPAC, BAD AIPAC!!!) on Jun. 20, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

Who shot JFK and JR Ewing? Was Higgins really Robin Masters type stuff.

The various screaming right wing Jewish outfits that the web page complains about are just as wearing as Noam Chomsky and that gang.

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 6:33 am

Hey MacGruber,

the only thing I care about is the mention of the two aforementioned esteemed BOS members on the lengthy AIPAC list.. This makes me wanna masturbate, much like when thinking about Bin Ladin riding a camel into Jerusalem..

Posted by Googlemaniac (GOOD AIPAC, BAD AIPAC!!!) on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

"South Africa was a pariah state which had been stripped of its seat in the UN General Assembly and was under comprehensive world-wide sanctions, including flight bans. The comparison of South Africa with Israel is specious and absurd on every count. It's intellectual laziness on your part to keep insisting otherwise."

& who helped the apartheid regime in South Africa get the bomb? Any guesses?

Posted by Colin V. Gallagher on Jun. 22, 2010 @ 10:24 am

It really irritates me to think that a bunch of self-righteous people in the Bay Area believe that they have the solution to a problem that has plagued the Middle East for over 2000 years. It's depressing to think that intelligent and well-meaning people are so naive.

- It's naive to think that this is a strictly humanitarian issue.
- It's naive to think that the governing factions in the Palestinian territories just want to live in peace.
- It's naive to think about Israel as wanting to prolong the occupation.

The truth is much more complicated. Many Palestinians want peace, but their governing factions are (literally) committed to terrorism and to killing anyone who doesn't agree with them. It's in their charter. Most Israelis also want peace and to get out of the occupied territories, but some right wing nutjobs (yes, Israel has them too) are committed to building these stupid settlements and the government doesn't have the stomach to confront them.

This is a complicated issue, and anyone who says otherwise is either disingenuous or incredibly stupid. Passing a resolution in SF is the latter and a complete waste of time.

If you want to pass a thoughtful (but still useless) resolution, how about passing one that supports the work of Palestinians and Israelis who work toward peace. This blockade issue is a red herring; unfortunately, many people are so naive that they fall for it.

Posted by Consider this.... on Jun. 22, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

The stuff in your note above is absolute nonsense; especially the complete b-s fairy story about a supposed '2000 year' conflict. All of this junk is completely false mythic propaganda cooked up by the very right wing Israeli nut balls that you claim to criticize, in order to fool the naive and/or fearful into supporting Israel's 60 plus years of outrageous atrocities.

Norman Finkelstein has spent decades of work debunking this ridiculous malarkey and his body of very detailed and careful scholarly work can be found at

Please read it...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 22, 2010 @ 4:02 pm