An Open Comment on the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
The 1969 People's Park protest in Berkeley was the culmination of an activist movement centering on Free Speech and opposition to the Vietnam War. Since then, a small group of veteran Berkeley residents have been unable to let go of the limelight, believing it to be the responsibility of local government to comment on geopolitics. This mistaken claim is most obvious in the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, which will consider this week a resolution that would declare the Army private suspected of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks a hero and call for his release.
Recent BPJ Commission agendas have listed such issues as "War Crimes Investigation of the Bush Administration," a "Resolution Requiring Berkeley to call for and support Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan War Military Resisters and Veterans," "a Proposed Resolution Calling for the Immediate Withdrawal of United States Armed Forces and Private Mercenary Contractors from Afghanistan and Cessation of United States Military Drone Attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan," and a "Recommendation Calling for U.S. Support for Third Party Diplomatic Negotiations in the Niger Delta, Nigeria."
These items have competed for time, attention, and funding with pressing local matters on BPJ agendas such as a "Public Forum on Immigration Policy and its impact on the Berkeley community," "Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week," and a review of the installation of local cell phone towers.
I moved to Berkeley almost 4 years ago, and am disappointed that my local government abdicates local responsibility in favor of an inappropriate (and outdated) sense of international self-importance. No one cares what Berkeley thinks about the Bush administration, U.S. Military resisters, drone attacks, or Nigeria. The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, an advisory committee to the Berkeley City Council, serves no enduring purpose, except to allow those with a memory (real or adopted) of People's Park in 1969 to perpetuate the narrative of their truly historic movement.
We in the city of Berkeley have important problems like unemployment, creating jobs, curtailing crime, fixing our streets and creating a positive business climate that will attract revenue and job into our city (not to mention the Library system, which is in serious need of attention, as residents were unable to successfully address at the June Peace and Justice Commission meeting, due to 2 hours of heated and harsh debate on the Israeli/Palestinian issue). I believe local governing is the primary responsibility of the elected officials of the City of Berkeley.
Our communities need leaders who recognize that local government is called, especially in economic times like ours, to lead locally. I pray the worthy goal of peace and justice be experienced every day in Berkeley, thanks to the work of the City Council and its advisory committees.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom || Bay Area Masorti || ShefaNetwork.org