Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, an elected body that regulates the residential rental market, will vote Thursday on a resolution that describes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including the threat of evictions in East Jerusalem, as amounting to “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid.”
The resolution calls the Israeli government’s activities in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah “part of a pattern of violence, displacement, and dispossession by Israeli settlers.” It also calls for U.S. tax dollars “to no longer fund apartheid in Israel.”
The resolution’s author is vice chair Soli Alpert, a Jewish member of the rent board’s nine-person body since 2018. The largely symbolic resolution is something he felt obligated to write, he told J., because he opposes the Israeli government claiming to “speak for the entirety of the Jewish community” and does not want U.S. taxpayer money to support the “occupation in [the] West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”
Sheikh Jarrah became a focal point of the wider conflict between Israel and Hamas in May that ended in a cease-fire. Critics claim that several Palestinian inhabitants of the neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem are being evicted to make way for right-wing settlers so the area can become more Jewish and less Arab. Those in favor of the evictions say Jews have historical claims to the area going back to pre-state Israel.
Israel’s Supreme Court is set to announce a ruling soon on a set of cases related to evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. In early June, Israel’s government decided to not intervene in the cases, which experts say increases the likelihood of the Palestinian evictions.
Three others on the rent board, including chair Leah Simon-Weisberg, co-authored the resolution.
The board is tasked with regulating rent increases, protecting against “unwarranted” evictions and “providing a fair return to property owners.” Alpert said that while the board routinely passes symbolic resolutions, during his tenure there has yet to be one mentioning the Israel-Palestinian conflict. As a city official with “power and privilege,” he said, he feels “obligated to use those positions” to speak out about discrimination and injustice he sees.