An official in Berkeley has been terminated for proposing a resolution calling for divestment from international and Israeli companies that profit from the occupation of Palestinian territories.
Cheryl Davila, a member of the famously liberal Northern California city’s Human Welfare and Community Action Commission, was informed Wednesday that she had been fired moments before the body was set to debate and vote on the resolution.
After a heated discussion in a room packed with around 100 community members, most supporting the measure, the resolution failed to advance to the city council.
Davila, who was appointed to the commission by city council member Darryl Moore in 2009, told The Electronic Intifada that she was moved to draft the divestment resolution after Israel’s attack on Gaza in July-August 2014 that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.
But the night before the resolution was to be put to a vote, and nearly a year after it was proposed, Moore called Davila to try to persuade her to withdraw it.
Davila said Moore told her he had received phone calls from people unhappy about the resolution, and that she should have informed him when she was going to do something “controversial.”
Davila told The Electronic Intifada that this was the first time Moore had contacted her about her work on the commission, whose role is to advise the city council on social welfare issues.
Shocked by the call, Davila immediately wrote notes of what Moore said.
Davila said that Moore had told her he was “disappointed” in her and that the resolution was going to cause “turmoil” in the city.
Davila said she told Moore she was uncomfortable withdrawing the resolution, which had been under deliberation since October.
She recalled that Moore ended the conversation by saying, “you do what you do and I do what I do.”
Darryl Moore did not respond to a request for comment.
But it wasn’t until Davila walked into the commission’s monthly meeting the following night, 16 September, that she was informed by a city employee that she had been terminated and would not be able to participate in the debate about her resolution.
Berkeley residents and community members supporting the resolution filled the meeting room, as images tweeted by trade union activist Kumars Salehi show.
Davila drafted the resolution with Noah Sochet, the former chair of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, and Carol Sanders, a lawyer and member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
Had it been adopted, the resolution would have called on the city to divest all holdings in companies “participating in ongoing violations of human rights and international law in occupied Palestinian territories.”
It would have added Israel’s military regime in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to Berkeley’s “Oppressive States List,” a designation triggering a city boycott.
Davila was the first to speak during the public comment period, when she announced for the first time that she had been terminated as a result of the resolution. “I am hopeful you all move forward, and aren’t intimidated to do so,” she said, shaking visibly.
Those who spoke after Davila expressed outrage at her termination and urged the commission to advance the divestment resolution to the city council.
“It is time for us to speak. Speak now. No more silencing every one of us on this issue,” Bazian said.
Others speakers supporting the resolution included a long-time pastor at a Methodist church which historically served the Japanese-American community, AROC’s Lara Kiswani and several members of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Only three people in attendance spoke against the resolution.
While several commissioners were strongly in favor of the resolution, it failed to garner the six votes it needed to pass the 11-member body.
In addition to Davila, who had just been fired, two other commissioners were absent and did not take part.
Commission chair Praveen Sood proposed adding language to the resolution about positive investment and shareholder activism.
But many in attendance saw this as an attempt to water the resolution down.
Members of the public urged the commission to vote on the resolution as it was, to take a stand in solidarity with Davila, and not bend to the intimidation to which she had been subjected.
In the end, the commission voted to continue to work on the resolution to incorporate Sood’s suggestions and bring it back at their next meeting.
One audience member raised his voice and said, “This is a completely different resolution than the one Davila proposed.”
While Sood insisted he was moving Davila’s resolution forward, there was a palpable sense of disappointment among many as they left the room.