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    Local OC leaders respond to Israeli-Hamas war
    • October 18, 2023

    At Tuesday’s OC Board of Supervisors meeting, dozens of speakers raised concerns over a joint statement released by three of the county leaders condemning the recent Hamas attack on Israel, with some saying the message could “place targets on the backs” of those in 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 released last week. “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.”

    The supervisors said they “condemn Hamas, Islamic terrorism and stand with our ally Israel” and “call on all Muslim leaders in Orange County to join us in this condemnation.”

    “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.”

    Their release received criticism, with some calling it “deeply problematic” and “one-sided.”

    “Your rhetoric actively stokes the flame of Islamophobic and anti-Arab sentiment as the Arab community grieves with our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” one speaker said during the public comment period. “Palestinian life is again treated as expendable and devoid of value. 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, demanded accountability from the board members.

    While “the one-sided statement” offers support for Israelis, it “blatantly makes no mention of the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israel in their most recent assault and bombardment of Gaza,” CAIR officials said in a statement that asked the board members to meet with local Palestinian human rights advocates. “Instead of using their platform as an opportunity to recognize and support all the communities impacted by the recent events — including Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans, and American Muslims — the supervisors chose to engage in old Islamophobic tropes that conflate violence with a religion practiced by 2 billion people around the world.”

    Foley apologized Tuesday for any pain she “may have unintentionally caused,” adding that she continues to prioritize building coalitions and fighting hate and violence.

    “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. I will continue to stand vehemently opposed to terrorism,” Foley said. “However, as I said, Hamas is not representative of Palestinians of any of our community here today. The targeted attacks on our Muslim Arab Americans and our Palestinian neighbors are unacceptable. And this type of hate and violence has no place in Orange County.”

    Supervisors Doug Chaffee, representing OC’s fourth district, and Vicente Sarmiento, of the second district, had released a separate statement condemning all acts of violence on civilians.

    “The recent events that have been unfolding in Israel and the Gaza Strip are a heartbreaking continuation to this long-standing conflict. We hope to see a resolution where both Israel and Palestine can live peacefully,” their joint statement said. “Additionally, we want to ensure that locally, both communities’ First Amendment rights are protected and their ability to advocate for their beliefs are safeguarded.”

    During his invocation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Sarmiento shared his desire for peace, hope and a resolution to the long-standing dispute between Jewish and Palestinian people.

    “The essential takeaway was that people of good conscience cannot equivocate in condemning Hamas for the terrorist acts directed against Israeli civilians,” Sarmiento said. “And although the loss of life has been staggering, and the images shocking, and our outrage triggered, we cannot also condone the harsh and inhumane retaliation being inflicted upon the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

    More Orange County leaders have released statements in recent days as the war between Israel and Hamas continues and a rise in hate crimes is reported in the country.

    Fullerton councilmembers Shana Charles and Ahmad Zahra released a joint statement on Tuesday, Oct. 17, expressing sorrow for the violence happening abroad.

    “We have watched in horror the atrocities committed against innocent civilians in Israel and the ensuing and ongoing violence against innocent Palestinians in Gaza. We have also seen an alarming rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in our communities and around the world,” they said.

    “As both Jewish and Arab-Muslim local leaders, we stand united in our resolve against all forms of terror, violence and hate,” they said. “And while we may not have impact on events in the Middle East, we can and will continue working together, as colleagues and friends, towards peace and prosperity in our local community.”

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    ​ Orange County Register