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Flotilla Resolution Pulled from Agenda in Richmond Tonight, But Discussion Still Planned

By Bay City News and Planet
Saturday June 12, 2010 - 10:26:00 PM

The Richmond City Council had been scheduled to consider a resolution today (Tuesday) condemning the Israeli military's takeover of a ship in the Freedom Flotilla last month and the country's continued blockade of Gaza. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman were originally sponsoring the resolution, but Ritterman announced Monday night that he is no longer backing the resolution, in a letter forwarded to the Planet by fellow councilmember Tom Butt.  

Two Richmond residents who participated in the flotilla, Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheetz, will attend the meeting, according to a spokesman for the Free Palestine Movement. 

Ritterman’s letter said: 

"The resolution has generated a firestorm of controversy in Richmond. On the one hand, it has formally encouraged a deep discussion of the issues of the middle east, but has also resulted in polarization which makes genuine dialogue, understanding and empathy difficult if not impossible. 

To my knowledge this is the very first time the issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been discussed publicly in Richmond. 

Yesterday I fasted and walked along the ocean with my beloved partner Vivien and allowed my mind to be in awe of the beauty and majesty of creation. Viv and I have talked about how best to handle the resolution situation. Here is what we have concluded: 

The hurt and frightened feelings in the community, and the rift this has created have become the primary issue, not the resolution itself. We can easily amend the resolution to remove the passages which some found objectionable, but I don't think that alone will suffice at this point. 

The primary goal of Tuesday night will be to try and heal the rift and to try and encourage a deepened sense of empathy and understanding. I will not present the resolution for a vote, but rather use the time to allow those in the community who want to express themselves on this issue to do so. I will apologize to all those I have offended and explain my motivation. I continue to believe that respect for international rules of conduct is best for all of us. 

I will ask that all of those who speak realize that the resolution will not be voted on and therefore we all can take a step back, take a bit of the edge out of our voices, and speak to one another as if we were speaking to a loved one who disagreed with us on this issue. To speak with respect, but not only respect, but with kindness and even love. I will ask everyone to remember that our main purpose is to build The Beloved Community of Dr. King's dreams. 

I will ask us all to remember Dr. King's words: ..."the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the Beloved is this love which can change the hearts of men and women." 

I will ask everyone of us, myself included, to approach the discussion with an open mind and an open heart. I will remind everyone how issues like this one can tear communities apart and that we in Richmond can become a model of how a community discusses difficult issues in a kind and caring way." 

Butt added his own comments to the forwarded letter: 

“I can recall few issues that have drawn more contentious commentary from the public than the proposed J-1, ADOPT a resolution to urge Contra Costa County to opt out of the Secure Communities Agreement to protect the human rights of immigrant families - Mayor's Office (Mayor McLaughlin 620-6503/Vice Mayor Ritterman 620-6581). 

It ranks up there with Point Molate and the front yard fence height issue of 2003. I have even gotten a call from the Israeli consulate requesting a meeting with the consul general today. 

Of the hundreds of emails I have received, almost all agree that the Richmond City Council has no reason to be involved at all. Of those that take the next step, about 95% condemn the flotilla for provoking an unnecessary confrontation. 

The remaining 5% take the side of Gaza and blame Israel for overreacting. 

Many agree that both Israel and the Palestinians, including Gaza, bear responsibility of unrest in the Middle East. 

Personally, I am hoping we can table the item and avoid a protracted and probably bitter debate on something we have no control over.” 

The public will still be able to comment on the question atTuesday's meeting. 

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Richmond City Councilchambers at 440 Civil Plaza.