Mon, Jul

When LA City Hall Pols Step Into The Ring Of Foreign Policy


PLANNING WATCH -  I regularly write about planning issues in Los Angeles, especially homelessness and climate change.  But there is a relationship that is hard to understand.  How do foreign policy topics connect to local issues?  After all, the same parties and often the same elected officials make decisions over both foreign and domestic topics.  Nevertheless, media coverage, similar to the presidential campaigns of Biden and Trump, focus on differences over secondary domestic issues, like posting the Ten Commandments in public schools.  

After all, the two major candidates agree with each other on critical foreign policy questions, especially the US proxy wars in the Ukraine and in Gaza.  In the case of the Ukraine, the United States has already given $107 billion in direct aid and $68 billion on indirect aid.  Regarding Israel, the US government – with full bipartisan support -- provides 70 percent of the weapons for Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, and it previously gave $318 billion to Israel from the late 1940’s through 2022

These and other foreign policy issues, like war with China, only consumed 10 minutes of the 90 minute Presidential debate – probably because the candidates’ polling reveals that their armchair bellicosity has little voter support.  A majority of Democrats. Independents, and Republicans consistently support an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire.  Furthermore, 56 percent of Democrats believe the Israeli military is engaged in genocide in Gaza.  

But things are slowly changing.  Over 100 city councils, including Santa Monica, passed resolutions calling for a Gaza cease fire.  So far, however, the Los Angeles City Council has ignored a ceasefire motion offered by three Councilmembers.  Quickly referred to the Council’s Elections and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, this buried motion called for: 

  • “An immediate and permanent ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional return of all hostages, and the safe and immediate passage of unhindered humanitarian aid and medical care to Gaza.” 
  • “Peaceful diplomacy and an end to the conflict that honors all peoples' right to dignity, safety, and justice.”

 Meanwhile, LA’s City Hall has moved in the opposite direction, and a new motion from Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky calls for City Hall to fund $1,000,000 in private guards provided by the Jewish Federation and Magen Am, a security company mostly staffed by former Israeli soldiers.  The Yaroslavsky motion is based on the spurious claim that demonstrations opposing land theft and Israel’s military actions in Gaza are motivated by anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews), not opposition to ethnic cleansing and genocide.  Her motion also fails to mention that the perpetrators of violence at UCLA were a masked pro-Israel mob that violently attacked the peaceful Palestinian encampment on May 1, followed by a multi-agency police attack on May 2 that arrested 210 students and demolished their encampment.

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator is beaten by counter protesters attacking a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on May 1, 2024.

The rationale for Councilmember Yaroslavsky’s motion, protection from alleged anti-Semites who blocked entry to a Jewish synagogue, has been soundly debunked by Glenn Sacks in Salon magazine:

The demonstrators were not outside that synagogue to protest Jews in general, the Jewish faith, Zionism or even Israel — they were there to protest the sale of land in illegally occupied Palestinian territory. The target of the protest was not Adas Torah (the hosting synagogue) itself, but a group called My Home in Israel, which was holding a real estate marketing event at the synagogue.  The group purchased a full-page ad in the June 21, 2024, issue of the Jewish Journal, a Los Angeles weekly newspaper, promoting the event at Adas Torah . . .with this pitch: "Come and meet representatives of housing projects in all the best Anglo neighborhoods in Israel.” 

Anglo neighborhoods are the Israeli version of the banned US real estate marketing practice of selling houses in neighborhoods labelled white.  Congressionally-adopted Fair housing laws have outlawed this racist sales technique since 1968.

Is there a common thread linking the Yaroslavsky motion to the aggressive foreign policy of the United States government?  According to emeritus UC Santa Cruz professor, William Domhoff, American cities have local growth coalitions, with links to the national Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  The CFR regularly briefs local officials on US foreign policy issues through their State and Local Webinars.  In November 2023 they presented a webinar to 350 local officials entitled Israel and Palestine: Past, Present, Future. 

In addition, local officials are subject to intensive lobbying, which explains Councilmember Yaroslavsky’s motion, since it runs counter to the two-state solution touted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

(Dick Platkin is a retired LA city planner.  He reports on local planning issues for CityWatchLA.  He is a board member of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA).  Previous columns are available at the CityWatchLA archives.)         

Please send questions to [email protected].   Photo:  Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images