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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Both Sides Passionately Express Their Views on Middle Peace at Council Meeting

In a microcosm of the divide that exists in Israel and Palestine, hundreds of Davis residents turned out to Davis City Hall on Tuesday night to express their opinion and take a side on a resolution that was designed by Councilmembers Stephen Souza and Lamar Heystek to bring people together, to take no sides, and quite simply to call for a cease fire, a cessation of violence, to condemn the attacks on both sides, and to allow for the humanitarian aid.

However, this would not be a night for compromise or peace. Instead, a large number of Muslim and Middle Eastern UC Davis students called on the council to support a resolution while a smaller but vocally just as a passionate number of Jewish residents of Davis called on the council not to pass the resolution.

The Jews, largely a collection of more conservative and pro-Israeli Jews, condemned the city council for what they called moral equivalency. They argued passionately that there can be no peace so long as Hamas, a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, is in control of Gaza. They were passionate about their views.

The incident even inspired Political Science Professor Emeritus, Alex Groth, a holocaust survivor and 47 year resident of Davis to make his very first visit to the Davis City Council.

There were a small handful of more liberal Jews led by people like Jonathan London and also represented by Councilmember Sue Greenwald who called for peace. Councilmember Greenwald gave an impassioned statement for peace. For that, she earned the score of the more militant and conservative members of the Jewish community, who at one point cornered her outside the chambers and suggested she was a "self-hater."

Many criticized the board for responding to the large number of Muslims who attended the council meeting last week calling on a resolution. They suggested that the subcommittee had listened to only one side.

However, from what I understand, Councilmembers Souza and Heystek talked to a large number of people and attempted to craft what was a very difficult document.

It became increasingly clear that there was a sharp divide in the room. And that cooler heads could have brought people who live in this community and shared very diverse viewpoints together.

The council ultimately pulled back the resolution, realizing that what they believed could unite the community had actually divided the community.

The council then unanimously moved to have the Human Relations Commission take up the issue and work toward a community forum where people from all sides can come forward and express their views.

On the one hand, it was clear that this proposal was doomed from the start given the sharp viewpoints in the room, on the other hand, it was a great exercise in democracy. Both sides at times heatedly and passionately aired their viewpoints, but for the most part the debate was civil, it was marred by very few lost tempers and other than a brief but alrming incident outside, remained relatively peaceful on both sides.

The students learned a great lesson in civics about the democratic process. This evening on Vanguard Radio, KDRT 95.7, join us as the Vanguard talks to several of the students involved in these events. You can call in at 792.1648 and listen on the net at

---David M. Greenwald reporting