Election Section

Commentary: Commission Will Soon Reach Consensus on Peace And Justice By JANE LITMAN

Tuesday August 02, 2005

As a member of the Peace and Justice Commission, I would like to make a few comments about Matthew Artz’s article of July 22: 

1. Three of the members of the commission—Kashner, Weddle, and Winkelman—are only very recently appointed and have attended one or two meetings at most. I think it is premature, at best, for them to be accused of being part of a “hostile takeover.” Most of their votes have been abstentions, likely due to the fact they are so newly appointed. I am pained that citizens who want to be part of their city government are welcomed with accusations. Let’s give them a chance and see how they actually vote before characterizing their positions, as “bucking the commission’s traditionally internationalist agenda” or “being interested in destroying” other commissioners, or “not believing in the mission” of the commission. 

2. The commission is appointed by elected officials of Berkeley. My sense is that the members of the commission range from Kerry Democrats to Nader Independents. I like Chairman Freedkin, and think he is doing a great job as chair, but with all due respect, this spectrum is not “to the right of mainstream Berkeley.” Though I disagree with virtually every policy of the Bush administration, it is even conceivable to me that a Berkeley Republican might in good faith value peace and justice and desire to sit on the commission. If such a person is appointed by a councilmember or School Board member, I think he or she should also be welcomed in good faith. 

3. Due to procedural rules, the commission needs a majority of all commissioners, not merely those voting or even those in attendance, to pass a resolution. Summer absences along with new members’ abstention votes have made achieving this threshold a bit difficult. I think it is important for Commissioners Cohen, Sorgen, and Sherman not to overreact to this situation. I expect that the commission will be able to regain a consensus on international peace and justice issues when it reconvenes in September. 

4. I am deeply troubled by Dona Spring’s accusation of a takeover related to commissioner stands on Israel and Palestine. What evidence does she have for this accusation? It seems to me the officials who made recent appointments say this was not a factor. Though the commission has not taken up an Israel-Palestine resolution lately, we did discuss the Feinstein resolution supporting the Geneva Accords and listened to a great deal of citizen testimony on the issue. The discussion was quite cordial, and I believe there was more or less consensus among commissioners. There was no resolution because the events of the day moved ahead of the commission, but there was no political pressure to ignore the issue. The current issues of concern to some commissioners (the controversies over establishing a Department of Peace and recalling state Guardsman from Iraq) have nothing to do with Palestine or Israel. What is Spring trying to insinuate with her reference to Israel and Palestine?  

5. I’m very fond of my friend John Gertz. He is intelligent, witty, courageous, and energetic—not unlike Zorro himself—of whom John’s company holds the trademark. However John is not a member of the Peace and Justice Commission, nor of Berkeley city government, nor does he speak for the Jewish community. He is an individual citizen. Though he is entitled to his provocative and controversial views, I wonder about their relevance to the actual situation at hand. 

6. Lastly, one of the great privileges of sitting on the Peace and Justice Commission has been working with the Berkeley students who are among its members. These young leaders are thoughtful and idealistic, and for them the Peace and Justice is a step toward a career in international relations or government. I was disappointed that neither Councilmember Worthington’s appointee, Jamie Wright, or Mayor Bate’s appointee, Leslieanne Cachola, was quoted in the article. They are both amazing young women who have contributed much to the commission. I am under the impression that having graduated, they are both leaving to pursue their careers. I wish them every success, and I will miss them very much. I have to wonder if a Daily Planet feature on them might have created a more interesting and productive picture of the work of the commission than the irresponsible and negative accusations of a takeover. 


Temple Beth El Rabbi Jane Litman is a member of the Peace and Justice Commission.