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Peace Resolution Exposes Deep Divisions


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By Jorge Casuso

May 15, 2024 -- A resolution approved by the City Council early Wednesday morning calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and condemning "all forms of hate" exposed how deeply Israel's war against Hamas has divided Santa Monica.

The testimony from 133 speakers led to frequent outbursts from the audience and warnings from Mayor Phil Brock before the resolution, which was carefully worded to avoid taking sides, was approved 6 to 1.

The resolution, said its co-sponsor, Councilmember Jesse Zwick, was "an attempt to craft a series of statements so obvious in their factual basis and universal in their values that they might bridge a terrible divide in our community.

"Obviously, that hasn't quite succeeded," Zwick said after the public testimony. "The temperature is too high. The tribalism on both sides runs too deep."

During public testimony, pro-Palestinian speakers called for an end to Israel's attacks in Gaza that have devastated the city and killed some 35,000 people, many of them women and children.

Pro-Israeli speakers called for the eradication of Hamas, the U.S. designated terrorist group that massacred some 1,200 people during the October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war.

Councilmember Gleam Davis noted that the resolution "was not an attempt to come down on anybody's side. It was an attempt to come down on the side of peace."

The sentiment was echoed by Councilmember Oscar de la Torre, who warned that "vengeance and revenge" creates "a cycle of violence" that "just escalates."

"We are not on one side or the other," de la Torre said. "We are on the side of peace."

The proposed resolution "supports the resumption of a negotiated bilateral ceasefire, which must include humanitarian aid for the immediate provision of desperately needed food, water, medical care, clothing and emergency shelter to Palestinians, the end of Hamas' rule in Gaza, due process for all prisoners, and the immediate release of the remaining 132 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas."

It also states that the City of Santa Monica "is appalled by the acts of violence, vandalism and intimidation against the Palestinian and Jewish diaspora in the United States, and reiterates its condemnation of all antisemitism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate and incitement to violence."

Zwick amended the resolution to add that more than 1,000 Israelis were killed during the October 7 attack and that Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Councilmembers were disturbed by the passionate divide displayed in the Council chambers over an action Zwick acknowledged was "deeply, deeply insignificant" and Mayor Phil Brock called "probably a meaningless resolution."

They were particularly disturbed that Santa Monica is prone to the wave of antisemitism that has swept the nation over the past seven months.

Councilmember Caroline Torosis, who with Gleam Davis co-sponsored the resolution, said she has been "getting pictures of anti-Semitic drawings from all over Santa Monica."

Brock also said he is "concerned with the people who live here who see Nazi symbols on Pico Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard."

"I don't want more of that," said Brock, who crafted a second resolution approved by the Council that focuses on the hate expressed by those on both sides.

"What I heard tonight sometimes was unfortunately intolerance," Brock said. "Tolerance, not intolerance, are the keys to peace in our city."

The lone dissenting vote on the two resolutions, which were approved in one motion, was cast by Councilmember Christine Parra. "This has been very difficult," Para said. "I truly believe in peace as well.

"What's equally troubling to me is the division (the resolution) has caused to my community here in Santa Monica."

Copies of the resolutions will be sent to the offices of U.S. Representative Ted Lieu, U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla.

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