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Politics & Policy

San Francisco supervisors could wade into Israel-Hamas firestorm this week

Supervisor Dean Preston calls for the governor and state Legislature to include additional funding for public transportation in the annual budget during a press conference at San Francisco City Hall on April 18, 2023. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard
Supervisor Dean Preston has been circulating a draft of a resolution about the Israel-Hamas conflict to fellow supervisors. | Source: Justin Katigbak for The Standard

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors could consider a resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict this week, a lightning-rod issue that is increasingly dividing elected officials and their constituents across the country. 

Supervisor Dean Preston has been circulating a draft of the resolution to fellow supervisors, though exactly what language might be introduced remained unclear as of Friday. 

“Our office is still in conversation with various stakeholders and colleagues on finalizing language for a ceasefire resolution,” Preston’s office said in an email. “The final text will be available at introduction.”

Protesters wave Palestinian flags under a foggy sky outside San Francisco City Hall.
Demonstrators rally in front of San Francisco City Hall on Saturday. The crowd of several hundred expressed support for Palestinians in Gaza and called on San Francisco officials to take a stand on the Israel-Hamas conflict. | Source: Julie Makinen/The Standard

Multiple sources said Preston has been urged to introduce a resolution by fellow members of the Democratic Socialists of America’s local chapter, as well as Arab and Muslim groups in San Francisco. The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Bay Area chapter of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center issued a call for people to show up at Tuesday’s board meeting to publicly comment in support of the resolution. 

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home on Sunday to demand that the former House speaker call for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators rallied at City Hall, speaking out on behalf of Palestinians.

Since the war in Gaza started, arguments on all sides of the issue have done little to bring about consensus while inflaming tensions, leading to a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia. Oakland’s City Council held a volatile meeting last week in which a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza was approved unanimously. However, councilmembers were criticized for not including language that condemned and called for the removal of Hamas.

Whether San Francisco supervisors could come to a consensus on a resolution regarding the conflict in Gaza is unclear, although multiple supervisors suggested the discussion itself will likely ignite a firestorm that not only has no impact on the war but also distracts time and attention from the supervisors’ work here at home.

In addition to Preston, Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Myrna Melgar, Rafael Mandelman and Hillary Ronen are Jewish. Ronen’s father is from Israel and served as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces. 

Melgar told The Standard that she is aware of the resolution and “absolutely nothing but hurt can come” from bringing it to the Board of Supervisors. Peskin said he received a draft copy of the resolution but was not working on it with Preston.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey confirmed the draft resolution was being circulated but was unable to share it.

“At this point, I’m engaging in private conversations about it, doing some community outreach on the topic and reserving judgment,” Dorsey said.

More than 14,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, including roughly 10,000 women and children, according to the New York Times. A weeklong cease-fire started on Nov. 24, reportedly resulting in the release of 100 hostages taken by Hamas and nearly 250 Palestinians from Israeli jails. But the truce in Gaza was broken Friday.

Numerous demonstrations have taken place across the Bay Area since the first days of the war, including a shutdown of the Bay Bridge during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that brought world leaders to San Francisco last month.

On Oct. 9, two days after Hamas’ initial incursion into Israel, Preston released an official statement stating that he was “heartbroken” by the violence and called Israel’s announcement of a “complete siege” of the Gaza strip “unconscionable.” 

He added that he stood “in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and an end to the occupation.” Preston then sent out a clarifying statement condemning the Hamas attack and Israel’s response after being criticized by local Jewish leaders.

On Friday, the Raoul Wallenberg Democratic Club sent a message to members, saying Preston was "working with the same antisemitic groups that brought shame and disgrace to other municipalities” to introduce a similar resolution in San Francisco.

The message urged club members to contact supervisors to express opposition to the resolution, which it said “will only further inflame tensions between already traumatized Muslim and Jewish communities and create a forum for hate.”

Josh Koehn can be reached at josh@sfstandard.com