Local OC officials respond to Israeli-Hamas war

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In a recent OC Board of Supervisors meeting, a wave of speakers voiced concerns over a joint statement by three county leaders that condemned the latest Hamas aggression against Israel. Some attendees felt that this proclamation might inadvertently endanger local Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian communities.

“Every year, the county remembers the Holocaust and the Board of Supervisors reaffirms our commitment to ‘Never Again,’” Third District Supervisor Don Wagner, First District Supervisor Andrew Do, and Fifth District Katrina Foley said in their joint statement. “For that to mean anything more than words, we must act in the moment to stand for civilization and against antisemitic terrorism. That moment is now.”

These leaders expressed their clear stance as they continued, “We condemn Hamas, Islamic terrorism and stand with our ally Israel,” calling upon Muslim leaders in Orange County to echo their sentiments. They added, “This is not a time for moral relativism or wishy-washy statements about understanding both sides. One side is responsible for this tragedy. Instead, it is now time for all civilized people to join with other decent people around the world to unequivocally condemn this barbarism.”

Yet, not everyone was in agreement. Some described the statement as “deeply problematic” and “one-sided.”

A concerned community member during the public comment phase said, “Your rhetoric actively stokes the flame of Islamophobic and anti-Arab sentiment as the Arab community grieves with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. I ask that you retract your statement and apologize to the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim community.”

The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (often referred to as CAIR-LA) called for accountability. They highlighted the statement’s focus on support for Israelis, while neglecting to mention the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israel’s recent actions in Gaza. Their request was for the board members to engage in discussions with local Palestinian human rights advocates.

Addressing the concerns, Foley conveyed her apologies for any inadvertent pain caused, emphasizing her commitment to unity and opposing hate. She stated, “But I want the community to be clear: Hamas is a terrorist organization. I do not believe that the community that spoke here is part of a terrorist organization. However, as I said, Hamas is not representative of Palestinians or any of our community here today.”

On the same subject, Supervisors Doug Chaffee and Vicente Sarmiento jointly condemned violence against civilians. They articulated their hopes for a peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine while emphasizing the importance of preserving First Amendment rights locally.

Sarmiento, during the meeting, expressed his heartfelt wish for an enduring peace, stating, “The essential takeaway was that people of good conscience cannot equivocate in condemning Hamas for the terrorist acts directed against Israeli civilians. And although the loss of life has been staggering, we cannot also condone the harsh and inhumane retaliation being inflicted upon the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

Other Orange County leaders have also chimed in. Fullerton councilmembers Shana Charles and Ahmad Zahra jointly expressed their distress over the ongoing violence, asserting their shared commitment against all forms of violence and prejudice. They emphasized, “As both Jewish and Arab-Muslim local leaders, we stand united in our resolve against all forms of terror, violence, and hate.”

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