Rent Board Chair Leah Simon-Weisberg shares her letter supporting an Israeli cease-fire in Gaza at a regular meeting on Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Supriya Yelimeli Credit: Supriya Yelimeli

Update, Dec. 1: The Rent Board will meet Dec. 4 in a hybrid setting to discuss its resolution for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

The resolution calls for “an immediate cease-fire and end to forced displacement in Palestine and Israel,” and to “combat hate both at home and abroad” with regard to increasing reports of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

The full text of the resolution is available in the Rent Board’s agenda materials.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. in the Berkeley Unified School District board room, 1231 Addison St., and participants can also join on Zoom.

Original story: Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Chair Leah Simon-Weisberg took the mic last week to condemn the killing of Palestinians and Israelis and call for a cease-fire in the Israeli war in Gaza.

Simon-Weisberg is the first elected leader in Berkeley to call for a resolution in support of Palestine, condemning Israel’s actions. As board chair, she penned a letter to President Biden and members of Congress pushing for a cease-fire. The rent board will also host a special meeting next month to consider a formal resolution.

Simon-Weisberg, who participated in a large, Jewish-led sit-in at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in downtown Oakland on Nov. 13, read the letter aloud at Thursday’s rent board meeting. In it, she noted that Israel killed over 10,000 Palestinians in a span of four weeks after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The Israeli government said 1,200 people were killed in the attack and at least 240 were taken hostage.

She mourned the innocent lives in the letter and called attention to over 4,000 children killed in Gaza. As of this week, that number has jumped to over 5,000. Al Jazeera reported that one out of every 200 children in Gaza has been killed by Israeli attacks in the past six weeks, according to Palestinian officials.

“Bad things happen when good people do nothing. We must speak up. As Americans, we must learn from past genocides and not allow our government to be complicit in the displacement and killing of the Palestinian people,” Simon-Weisberg wrote.

She called for an end to Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine, which has lasted over 50 years, and stressed that instead of funding Israel’s military, the U.S. should use its power to pursue diplomatic solutions and end violence against people in Gaza and the West Bank. She also highlighted that local communities are suffering from intersecting crises while the federal government considers outside spending.

“In addition to the pain and suffering our Arab, Muslim, and Jewish communities are enduring here in Berkeley, we are also facing the ongoing crises of homelessness, gun violence, and lack of access to health and mental services, affordable childcare, quality education, good paying jobs and affordable housing,” she wrote.

Rent Board Chair Leah Simon-Weisberg’s full letter to the federal government calling for a cease-fire. Credit: Leah Simon-Weisberg

The regularly scheduled Rent Board meeting, held in a hybrid format, began with about two dozen public speakers calling for a cease-fire in Palestine and a special meeting to discuss the issue.

Many Berkeley residents spoke about their connections to the Palestinian struggle.

Jonah Gottlieb, a UC Berkeley student, was the campaign manager for four Rent Board members in the “pro-tenant” slate. He has participated in several protests for Palestine, including a sit-in at the California Democrats’ convention on Nov. 18 in Sacramento.

“My family didn’t face antisemitic pogroms in Czar-ist Russia just for their trauma and my tax dollars to be used for ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes and occupation,” Gottlieb said. “‘Never again’ means never again, and as a Jew, I need to make it clear that though these crimes are being committed in my name, they’re absolutely doing nothing to keep Jews in the Bay Area safe.”

Gottlieb said the root of the ongoing violence is Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the notion should be rejected that Jewish people need an ethno-state with a massive military budget to survive.

Rent board commissioner Dominique Walker wearing a stole in support of Palestine at the Rent Board meeting on Nov. 15, 2023. Credit: Screenshot Credit: Supriya Yelimeli

Rent board members didn’t share complete comments on the potential resolution because it wasn’t on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, but nearly all of the board made short statements supporting the Palestinian people or a cease-fire resolution.

The Rent Board is the first to call for a special meeting specifically to discuss Gaza and demand a cease-fire, and Simon-Weisberg noted the Berkeley City Council’s inaction as a reason for her letter. The council meeting was shut down by activists calling for that elected body to do the same last week, and Berkeley Unified School Board has grappled with contrasting demands from parents to improve ethnic studies curriculums and support both Jewish and Arab students on school campuses.

In 2021, the Rent Board passed a resolution supporting Palestinians facing expulsion in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, led by Commissioner Soli Alpert.

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Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...