Divisive or Democratic?

Mayor Breed’s cease-fire condemnation is appalling.

Graphic by Madi Reyes /Graphics Center

Following three months of enormous pro-Palestine protests, on Jan. 9, San Francisco became the largest U.S. city to call for an immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza, Occupied Palestine. 

The Board of Supervisors’ resolution calls for “Sustained Ceasefire in Gaza, Humanitarian Aid, Release of Hostages, and Condemning Antisemitic, Anti-Palestinian, and Islamophobic Rhetoric and Attacks.” The legislation was introduced by District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, who is Jewish. After hours of public comment and revising over the two-day period, the non-binding resolution passed in an 8-to-3 veto-proof majority.

Upon the resolution’s success, City Hall erupted into cheers and chants. Supervisor Preston noted the unprecedented passion of the crowd. 

Not all San Franciscans were fans of the legislation. The Jewish News of Northern California reported that SF Mayor London Breed faced calls from mainstream Jewish organizations to veto the resolution. She also received a letter requesting the same from the mayor of Israeli city Haifa, one of San Francisco’s sister cities which was ethnically cleansed of nearly 60,000 Palestinians in the 1940’s, according to Palestine Remembered and Middle East Eye. While Mayor Breed did not go that far, she did condemn the resolution and refused to sign it — a rare move.

This action represents Mayor Breed’s failure to grasp the importance of such a motion, and it is ultimately another instance of the mayor departing from the will of the people she claims to represent.

Mayor Breed released a statement on X claiming the legislation made the city “angrier, more divided, and less safe.” Breed acknowledges legitimate concerns from the Jewish community about this resolution, citing instances of anti-semitic harassment at the hearing. Antisemitism is completely unacceptable, no matter what. She’s correct about that. However, it’s hard to see why someone who, according to their statement, wants to “show that life is sacred,” wouldn’t approve of San Francisco’s opposition to the indiscriminate killing of about 30,000 people, the vast majority being civilians.

Pro-cease-fire organizations, such as the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Jewish Voices for Peace, pushed back against the mayor’s rhetoric. The groups have coalesced to call the statement “inaccurate, racist, and divisive,” as well as demanding a retraction and apology.

In many ways, they’re right to do so. Mayor Breed’s stance seems to be exponentially more divisive than the stance of the cease-fire legislation. In November, Reuters found that nearly 70% of the country supported a cease-fire in Gaza. That number jumps to 80% among Democrats, according to Data for Progress. At the council meeting public comment session, nearly 400 people expressed their support for the resolution, with only one person speaking in opposition. The tens of thousands protesting in San Francisco for a cease-fire illustrate this quite clearly. The Foghorn has previously covered pro-Palestine protests on campus and statements released by USF’s own community. If there is a divide, it is between the American political class and the people.

In fact, an Economist poll found that 50% of Biden voters believe Israel is committing a genocide against Palestinians. One can assume this reflects the views of many San Franciscans, as in the 2020 election, 85% of ballots in San Francisco were for Biden. This comes as the International Court of Justice ruled on Jan. 26 that allegations of Israel committing a genocide in Gaza are “plausible.” Mayor Breed refusing to back a cease-fire on what a plurality of her voters believe is a genocide is alienating at best and morally outrageous at worst.

Backing a cease-fire is the normative position of not just Democrats, San Franciscans, and Americans, but also the world. Last month, 153 out of 193 countries voted at the United Nations for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. It is the position of the United States, and American politicians like Mayor Breed, that is polarizing, not the rest of the world. Sorry, Mayor Breed, but democracy is not “divisive.”

Breed’s condemnation exposes her as being out of touch with those she claims to represent. Though her statement claimed to want peace, the mayor seems to be unwilling to take any steps to materially demonstrate that desire. Her stance may be costly in her upcoming bid for re-election, as the Nation reports that 60% of Democratic voters prefer pro-cease-fire politicians.

In her condemnation, Breed said she “must choose unity.” It seems she would have preferred if the SF Board of Supervisors stayed silent and didn’t engage with calls from the constituency. But at some point, one must stand for something. The people of Gaza are undergoing a humanitarian catastrophe. If San Francisco’s mayor won’t stand for Palestinians, the rest of the city will — with or without London Breed.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *