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Richmond City Council considers controversial resolution supporting Palestinians in Gaza

Richmond City Council considering adopting resolution supporting Palestinians in Gaza
Richmond City Council considering adopting resolution supporting Palestinians in Gaza 03:33

As the war rages on between Israel and Hamas more than 7,000 miles away, a Bay Area city council is facing backlash for taking a position on the conflict.

The Richmond City Council on Tuesday night considered a resolution expressing support for Palestinians in Gaza. The resolution is available for the public to view online.

UPDATE: Richmond City Council passes resolution supporting Palestinians in Gaza, accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing

Many question whether a local city government should take a stance at all, including longtime resident Arnon Oren. He's a classically trained chef who is originally from Israel but moved to the US to follow his wife. 

Oren has worked in some big-name kitchens like Oliveto and Chez Panisse before building out his own space in Richmond almost 10 years ago.

UPDATE: Richmond mayor's office details support, backlash to controversial pro-Palestinian resolution

"We care about this city and we want to be in the fabric of this city," said Oren as he talks about the nonprofit he co-founded to expose Richmond teens to cooking and work in a commercial kitchen. Oren said he was shocked to hear there was a resolution going before the city council not just in support of Palestine, but accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing.

"It's like a punch in the stomach. I feel unwelcome because I'm Jewish and I'm Israeli," he said as his voice shook.

The resolution is only two pages long and is to affirm support and solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza.

Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez and Vice-Mayor Gayle McLaughlin are sponsoring the resolution. 

In a statement to KPIX, McLaughlin wrote, "Richmond is not an island. Our tax dollars are funding this war in Gaza and we have a moral obligation to speak out."

Former Richmond Mayor Tom Butt disagrees.

"Richmond has so many problems, so many challenges, so many needs. The city council needs to pay attention to what affects people here every day," he said. Butt was the longest-serving council member in city history. He served 20 years as a council member, and then an additional eight years as mayor.

"I find that people who say local government shouldn't be involved in international politics only say that when local government takes a position that they disagree with," said Zahra Billoo, who is the executive director of the Center for American-Islamic Relations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

She said local politicians are the ones who set the tone for the community, so support for the people of Palestine is necessary and welcomed. 

"Local governments have long been involved in foreign policy. The critics in this case are also likely the ones who are cheering on Governor Gavin Newsom as he visits Israel," she said.

But Oren questions the city's motives, saying if the goal really was about support, the resolution would be a call for peace – not picking sides.

"I don't know the intentions. I know the impact. The impact causes only division, causes only hatred," said Oren.

Dozens of protestors showed up on both sides of the issue. The city council passed the resolution early Wednesday morning.

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