Anger as Oakland residents defend Hamas and deny 7 October attack at council meeting

Community voiced overwhelming support for ceasefire resolution

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 29 November 2023 21:25 GMT
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Bay Area Residents Defend Hamas At City Council Meeting

Residents of the Bay Area city of Oakland, California, have garnered criticism for comments defending Hamas during a city council meeting on Monday where lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war.

While the meeting featured over 250 public commenters voicing a variety of perspectives, a compilation of some of the most pro-Hamas and anti-Israel perspectives was shared widely online.

In the video, one commenter said, “Calling Hamas a terrorist organization is ridiculous, racist and plays into genocidal propaganda that is flooding our media and that we should be doing everything possible to combat."

Another refered to the group, considered a terrorist organisation by US officials, as a “resistance organization that is fighting for the liberation of Palestinian people in their land."

“When a council member asked to add language condemning Hamas, a stream of public comment praising & supporting Hamas ensued. The council then rejected the request to condemn Hamas,” California state senator Scott Wiener, who is Jewish, wrote on X after the vote. “Just awful.”

Others, like British journalist Piers Morgan, accused the commenters of being “brazen terrorist sympathisers.”

Audience members show their support at a special session of the Oakland City Council for a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza

Others who were featured in the compilation cast doubt on aspects of the 7 October Hamas suprise attack on Israel, which is estimated have killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

"The notion that this was a massacre of Jews is a fabricated narrative,” one commenter said. “Many of those killed on October 7, including children, were killed by the IDF."

Some residents of hard-hit kibbutz Be’eri told Israel media they believe the IDF knowingly carried out strikes that harmed Israeli civilians during the 7 October battle, though neither the IDF nor outside observers have confirmed this allegation.

Another commenter questioned whether beheadings of babies and rape occured during the 7 October attack.

Both Israeli media and international forensic pathologists have reported finding beheaded babies, though they acknowledge difficulty in determining whether the children were beheaded before or after death. Physicians for Human Rights Israel concluded in a report on 7 October that "widespread sexual and gender-based crimes” occured, though it noted the difficulty in obtaining concrete evidence due to claims appearing in a variety of different venues including social media.

The Oakland council resolution, which was eventually approved 8-0, called for "an immediate ceasefire; release of all hostages; the unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza; the restoration of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies to Gaza; the respect for international law; and calls for a resolution that protects the security of all innocent civilians."

It also condemned antisemitism and Islamophobia, amid rising hate attacks in the US.

“It attempted to bring the sides together,” councilmember Carroll Fife, who introduced the measure, said at the Monday meeting. “I want Jewish children to live as much as I want Palestinian children to live.”

The vast majority of public and online commenters on the resolution voiced their support.

The meeting featured a variety of perspectives.

“Hamas is the justification that Israel uses to commit genocide. Eliminating Hamas without condemning the apartheid state of Israel is basically encouraging genocide,” resident Salah Albakri, several of whose family members were forced to flee Gaza because of the Israeli bombardment, told councilmembers.

Some Jewish attendees wore shirts with the slogan “not in our name” and criticised Israeli policy towards Palestinians as a genocide.

“I know the price of silence,” one public commenter said at the meeting. “Never again means never again for anyone.”

“There will be no Palestinian Israeli peace with (Hamas) in power,” Tye Gregory, the CEO of San Francisco’s Jewish Community Relations Council, commented.

Despite the unanimous approval of the resolution, there was some disagreement on the council itself. It voted down an amendment from council member Dan Kalb seeking to add language condemning international and domestic terror groups, acknowledge Israelis and Palestinians as victims of Hamas, and describe Hamas’s role in the 7 October attack.

Council member Nikki Fortunato Bas said she respected the councilmember’s position, but objected to the proposal, arguing the roots of the conflict go back “hundreds of years.”

“I do have to say that if we’re going to entertain putting those facts you mentioned into this resolution, that I do not support, we would also have to entertain the fact that this conflict did not start on October 7,” Ms Bas said.

Mr Gregory of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area later told The Jewish News of Northern California the meeting was the “most antisemitic room I have ever been in.”

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