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Press Release: Berkeley Councilmember Darryl Moore Terminates Human Welfare Commissioner over Palestinian Human Rights Resolution

Lara Kiswani, Noah Sochet ,Rochelle Gause (National organizer for Friends of Sabeel North America)
Friday September 18, 2015 - 02:48:00 PM

In an unprecedented move, Berkeley City Councilman Darryl Moore has terminated his appointee on the city's Human Welfare and Community Action Commission (HWCAC) after her refusal to withdraw a proposal for the city to divest from companies complicit in human rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories. 

Cheryl Davila, a commissioner on the HWCAC since 2009, described feeling appalled by what she saw taking place in Gaza last summer, "the Israeli bombardment was a disgraceful human rights violation that has caused a severe social welfare crisis, particularly for children, women, and the elderly in Gaza. Given that Berkeley was one of the first municipalities to pass an anti-apartheid resolution in support of South African human rights, it is time for Berkeley to do the same for Palestinians who are living under an Apartheid regime. We cannot be silent any longer." 

Davila authored a resolution calling on the city to divest from certain Israeli companies, and to add Israel's military regime in the Palestinian Territories to the city's oppressive states list, which restricts city purchases from oppressive regimes including that of the Tibet autonomous region. 

At a dramatic meeting Wednesday night, the HWCAC took up the resolution in front of a standing-room-only crowd of supporters. As she arrived, Ms. Davila was informed that she had been terminated. Speaking to the commissioners from the audience, she said "councilman Moore called me yesterday morning and told me that if I would not withdraw this resolution, he would remove me from the commission. I told him that I feel passionately about this issue and I urge you to pass it today." 

Scores of speakers urged the commission to respect Ms. Davila's wishes and send the recommendation on to the city council. Cindy Shamban expressed enthusiastic support for the resolution, and declared, "as a longtime Berkeley resident and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, I was surprised and disappointed to see that a commissioner who has done such stellar work over the years would be silenced by her councilman simply for speaking her conscience. Why is Councilmember Moore so afraid of the commission discussing Palestinian rights? There is no justification for Ms. Davila's dismissal." 

Commissioners voted to empanel a subcommittee to revise the resolution, committing to vote again at their next meeting in October. 

This resolution joins a growing chorus of official outcry against Israel’s regime in the Palestinian Territories. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement began in 2005 when over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in Occupied Palestine issued a call for BDS until Israel abides by international law and human rights standards. The BDS call has become an international movement, endorsed by renowned figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker. Churches, labor unions, students, faculty, and citizens around the world are encouraging divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s ongoing occupation, including the student governments of six UC campuses. 

The resolution, citing UN and Amnesty International reports, found that “the occupied Palestinian Territories are controlled militarily by the Israeli government, and the occupation is characterized by overreach and brutality, including the injuring and killing of Palestinian civilians, the destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, a blockade of the Gaza Strip, and the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem”, and called on the Berkeley City Council to take three steps to condemn the Israeli Occupation: 

  • divest from all companies profiting from on-going violations of human rights and international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
  • add the Israeli Military Regime in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the city's Oppressive States List, thereby restricting City purchases of goods manufactured in the Occupied Territories
  • send a letter to the board of CalPERS urging it to implement its existing responsible investment policies equitably and to divest all holdings in companies complicit in Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center said, "this effort is indicative of the long standing work between poor, Arab, Black and Brown communities to raise awareness and organize around issues of state violence and racism. We encourage the City of Berkeley to stand on the right side of history as they did during Apartheid South Africa, and advocate for justice and dignity for Palestinian people. Doing so is in fact taking a stand for justice for all people," adding "councilman Moore should re-appoint Cheryl and issue a public, written apology for his attempt to censor her on an issue of human welfare." 

This is not the first time that pro-Palestine campaigners have faced repression in the United States. Liz Jackson, staff attorney for Palestine Legal and cooperating counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights said, "we have responded to hundreds of incidents of suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy over the past few years, including firings, harassment, and false accusations of terrorism. These efforts target the movement for Palestinian rights in the US, which has grown significantly over the last decade." 

The resolution has been endorsed by local organizations including Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of Sabeel North America, American Friends Service Committee, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Middle East Children's Alliance, American Muslims for Palestine, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, QUIT, IJAN, and UAW 2865. 

Contacts: (530) 220-2842 (510) 898-1583