More than 240 people spoke about the Israel-Hamas war at a Santa Cruz City Council meeting that ended about 3 a.m. Wednesday. (Jesse Kathan — Santa Cruz Local)

SANTA CRUZ >> About 3 a.m. Wednesday, after 10 hours of public comment on a proposed ceasefire resolution in the Israel-Hamas war, the Santa Cruz City Council adopted a substitute statement that called for “collaborative efforts supporting peaceful dialogue” but did not address a ceasefire, Israel or Gaza.

More than 240 people spoke about the proposed ceasefire resolution at the meeting that began Tuesday night. About 80% of speakers supported the original resolution.

The council voted 5-2 to replace the ceasefire resolution with the substitute statement. 

Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley, Vice Mayor Renee Golder and Councilmembers Scott Newsome, Martine Watkins and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson voted for the substitute resolution. Councilmembers Sandy Brown and Sonja Brunner voted no. 

The council members then voted 6-0-1 to adopt a separate resolution that acknowledged suffering in the Middle East and a shared “wish for peace.” Brown did not vote.

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Other cities, such as Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco have adopted symbolic ceasefire resolutions. 

Brown said the proposed resolution was “an ethical and balanced response to the over 1,000 calls we received in support of a ceasefire, as well as the other perspectives that we heard.” She said she was “saddened” that the process did not result in a “unifying resolution.” 

After the vote, some attendees began chanting pro-Palestinian slogans and yelling at council members who had not supported the ceasefire resolution. Santa Cruz police then removed remaining attendees from the council chamber. About 30 attendees remained outside the council chamber as council members concluded the meeting.

Residents call for peace

More than 22,800 people in Gaza have been killed since the war’s onset and nearly 2 million people have been displaced, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Hamas, a militant Palestinian nationalist group, attacked Israel Oct. 7. About 1,200 people were killed in that attack and about 240 were taken to Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli authorities. 

The failed ceasefire resolution, authored by Councilmembers Brown and Brunner, called for:

  • A “permanent, sustainable, and immediate ceasefire.”
  • The return of Israeli hostages.
  • The entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

More than 200 attendees urged council members to adopt the resolution. 

“I came here 17 years ago because I was told Santa Cruz is a place where peace is prioritized. I was told this as a city that doesn’t stand for injustice,” said Alexandra Jamil Shamma, who identified herself as Palestinian. “I stand here before you today begging you to uphold the reputation this town has rightfully earned,” she said. “Jews and Palestinians are hand in hand before you, and we are pleading for you to allow nothing but your moral compass to guide you.”

Another speaker, Camila Hawthorne, said, “I have heard concerns this evening that a ceasefire resolution is divisive.  Nothing could be further from the truth. This resolution explicitly stands against violence and hate and calls for dialogue across backgrounds and faiths,” Hawthorne said. “You are our elected officials and your job is to represent us, so please listen.”

More than 30 people in support of the ceasefire resolution self-identified as Jewish. Some also opposed the conflation of Judaism and Zionism, as Zionism supports a state for the Jewish people in Israel.

“Speaking for many anti-Zionist Jews here today, and around the world, we are horrified to see our people go from surviving one genocide to perpetrating another. There is nothing less Jewish than what Israel is doing to Palestinians right now,” said Sylvie Stein. “This resolution is not causing or deepening divisions. It is just laying them bare for us all to see today.”

A supporter for a ceasefire resolution addresses the Santa Cruz City Council Tuesday night. ‘To say that I’m traumatized does not come close to a good enough description to explain what I, and many of us here today, feel after watching the civilian blood of my beloved Palestinians staining the streets of Gaza,’ she said. (Jesse Kathan — Santa Cruz Local) 

A foreign affair

More than 40 attendees spoke against the ceasefire resolution. Many said that the resolution would inflame local divisions and would not affect the war.

“We do not elect you to make statements on foreign policy,” said resident Claire Shorenstein. “We desperately need you to focus your efforts on issues here in Santa Cruz, not to single out a specific geopolitical matter, and certainly not to draft a resolution that only serves to divide our community further,” Shorenstein said.

Shorenstein and other opponents of the resolution said a statement in favor of peace should have named and denounced terrorism by Hamas.

Councilmember Brown said the original ceasefire resolution had been crafted through conversations with many community members. 

“It’s not over. There’s much more work to be done,” Brown said.

Read more

Activists press Santa Cruz leaders on Israel-Hamas ceasefire — Dec. 15, 2023

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Reporter / California Local News Fellow

Jesse Kathan is a staff reporter for Santa Cruz Local through the California Local News Fellowship. They hold a master's degree in science communications from UC Santa Cruz.