Election Section

Commentary: Commission Changes Are Justified By JOHN GERTZ

Friday July 29, 2005

I agree that the business of the Peace and Justice Commission should be to promote world peace. But this mission was sadly perverted when the commission began to pass one-side resolutions concerning the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The divestiture resolution was their first attempt. Cynically, as the Daily Planet points out, that resolution called for a boycott of both Israel and Palestine. However, on the day it came before the City Council, hundreds of pro-Palestinians turned out to urge its passage. They and everyone else involved knew that, whereas Palestine exports virtually nothing to the U.S. (except perhaps, jihad), tiny Israel has more companies listed on NASDQ than any other, except the U.S. itself. Enactment of this resolution might, for example, have led to Berkeley shutting itself down, since, most computers contain chips designed or manufactured in Israel. The old Peace and Justice Commission was quick to jump on Israel, but passed not one resolution condemning suicide bombing, Darfur, Wahhabism, Arab mistreatment of women and gays, or Palestinian cleptocracy. The old Peace and Justice Commission was setting Berkeley’s citizens against one another by condemning one side, and one side alone. I have spoken with some of the commission’s newer members, and agree that some of them are unlikely to support anti-Israel resolutions. But, very importantly, neither are they inclined to put forth pro-Israel or anti-Palestinian resolutions. I can’t speak for them, but my sense is that, consistent with the principles of the Peace and Justice Commission, they are waging a peace campaign--they want peace to return to Berkeley on this issue. 

The Daily Planet seems to imply that I am somehow pulling all the strings behind the scenes. Not so. Citizen outrage against the old Peace and Justice Commission is widespread. For example, the Daily Planet incorrectly wrote that I lobbied school board members to appoint Peace and Justice Commission members who would oppose anti-Israel resolutions. I have never communicated in any way with any member of the school board. I have lobbied three City Council members, but that’s it, and that, of course, is my right as a citizen. I am certain the anti-Israel camp in Berkeley does the same, and that is their right. The Daily Planet is also wrong when it calls me a “local player in Democratic politics.” I am not. I often speak with members of congress, but, although I am a registered Democrat, I talk with members on both sides of the aisle because the issues which concern me are bi-partisan. 

The Daily Planet quotes me as saying that were Maio to run for mayor she would “go down” to defeat. The Planet continues “[Gertz] didn’t specify how he would ensure [her] defeat. (I pointedly leave Worthington out of this, because his record is complicated.) Well, the reporter didn’t ask. I am happy to specify here by way of fair warning to the would be candidate. In my view, Maio can either pass mindless one-sided anti-Israel resolutions or be mayor of all Berkeleyans. She cannot do both. 

Maio has admitted in the pages of the Daily Planet that her vote on Corrie was a mistake. Yet she has steadfastly refused to fix that mistake, by simply reversing that bad resolution. She was the swing vote, and she could change the outcome if she chooses. Bad legislation is routinely rescinded at every level of government. Apparently, Maio wants it both ways. She wants to play the role of “useful idiot” to Berkeley’s fringe jihadists, while pandering to the rest of us. For this she is doubly damned. The political wisdom of her position escapes me. Surely, Maio must realize by now that her Corrie vote will be one of the key issues in her mayoral campaign. I predict that her anti-Israel record will bring a lot of cash and a lot of volunteers to the cause of her more moderate opponent. Can’t she imagine the literature that will surely be mailed to Berkeley voters showing her picture right next to that now famous picture of Corrie’s contorted face burning the American flag in front of Palestinian school children (printed in USA Today and Mother Jones)? Does she think that only Berkeley’s Jewish community (roughly 25 percent of voters) will care about this? Even voters with no particular opinion about the Middle East will surely think twice about electing a mayor who prefers to delve into foreign policy matters which so clearly polarize Berkeleyans, rather than one who will largely stick to city business, and delve into foreign policy only when there is a clear Berkeley consensus.