Berkeley commissioner loses seat over Israel divestment resolution

A member of a Berkeley municipal commission has lost her position, apparently for presenting a resolution calling for the famously liberal city to consider divesting from some companies doing business with Israel.

Cheryl Davila, a longtime member of the Berkeley Human Welfare and Community Action Commission, reportedly was dismissed from her position prior to a Sept. 16 meeting at which the commission was scheduled to debate and vote on whether to present the resolution to the city council.

According to a press release and a report on the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada, Davila said, “Councilman [Darryl] Moore called me [on Sept. 15] 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 [the commission] to pass it.”

Moore, who appointed Davila to the commission in 2009, did not respond to J.’s requests for an interview. Davila could not be reached.

Despite her dismissal, Davila attended the Sept. 16 meeting, along with scores of pro-divestment activists who urged passage of the resolution even as some city officials questioned its relevance. The resolution, which calls on Berkeley to divest from companies “complicit in human rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories,” did not advance to the city council.

Berkeley’s Human Welfare and Community Action Commission is tasked with addressing “issues of low-income residents of Berkeley and how to improve their lives,” said Councilman Kriss Worthington, who attended the meeting. “This [motion] has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t mention anything about poor people in Berkeley.”

According to Berkeley resident Faith Meltzer, a member of StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel, the resolution had been in the works for months, though she and her fellow pro-Israel activists knew nothing about it. “I found out the day of the hearing,” said Meltzer. “The anti-Israel folks packed the meeting.”

Worthington blasted the manner in which the motion was crafted, noting that commissioners are required to “seek out multiple points of view, and seemingly this was only publicized to one side.”

He also criticized the forum, noting that Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission typically examines matters relating to foreign affairs and human rights. Finally, he questioned the timing of the resolution.

“The fact that this [happened] during the High Holy Day season for Jews seems to me to be a bit culturally insensitive,” Worthington said. “That’s when people are devoted to their religious duties.”

According to Worthington, commission chair Praveen Sood put off a vote for 30 days, saying a subcommittee would redraft the resolution to include “language about what this has to do with poor people in Berkeley.”

He also said most of the commission’s nine remaining members indicated they were inclined to pass a revised divestment resolution at their next meeting on Oct. 21.

If that happens, it would be sent to the city council for a vote. Twice before, the Berkeley City Council has considered Israel divestment measures, rejecting both of them.

“I think the city council is still unlikely to vote for something like this,” Worthington said. “It puts everyone through this fierce debate and hate speech, and at the end of the day, what is the likelihood of a new policy? Pretty minuscule.” — dan pine

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.