During a public comment period, Eureka resident Shannon Townsend-Bettis displays a prop baby-sized body bag as she addresses the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. | Screenshot.


As the International Criminal Court pursues arrest warrants for senior figures in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors took its own action this morning, passing a resolution that calls for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire” in the Middle East as well as “mutual exchange of all hostages” and “respect for international law.” 

The wording of the resolution was borrowed from the City of Arcata, where the city council passed a re-worded statement in March after declining to even vote on an earlier iteration that included language specifically calling out Israel for its actions, such as the “collective punishment” of Palestinians.

The matter drew passionate public outcry at more than one meeting, and the version that was ultimately passed was drafted with help from extensive community outreach and participation.

Today, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone, who brought the matter forward for the board’s consideration, spoke in generalized terms about conflict in the Middle East, saying that while the resolution will likely have very little impact on international events, he believes it’s important for the board to at least make a statement.

“This isn’t trying to take sides or to stir up any controversy or problem,” he continued. “It’s simply a statement of peace.”

If Madrone was hoping to leave the specific atrocities of the war in the subtext, public commenters proved more than willing to address them head-on. 

Trinidad resident John Webb, for example, said that while Humboldt may be a tiny and remote community far from the conflict, “My taxes go to buy the bombs that are dropped on the civilian population of Gaza.”

Arcata resident Joanne McGarry, a regular advocate for the environment protections, said, “[I]t’s really, really important to those of us who really want peace in the world that our representatives respect that and and help us move in that direction.” She suggested that the title of the resolution should specifically mention the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Eureka resident Shannon Townsend-Bettis brought an infant-sized body bag to the dais. It has “CHILDREN OF GAZA” written across it and something inside (a doll, presumably) to make it look more convincing. She said that, through social media, the world is witnessing “an industrial slaughter of children” that’s unlikely to end soon because that would be “in contradiction with U.S. foreign policy.” She thanked the board for bringing the resolution forward and urged them to pass it.

Not all public speakers were in favor, however. Luta Belcher, a man who identified himself as a lifelong resident of Humboldt County and “a Hebrew” who briefly lived in Israel, spoke about the history of the region, including the rise to power of Hamas.

“Israel should be commended for its virtue in the way it’s executed this, not condemned,” Belcher said. “Our peace proposal doesn’t mention the return of the hostages that were taken, including American citizens. These people just want the bodies of their relatives, for crying out loud.” 

When the matter came back to the board, Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson made a motion to pass the resolution, and Madrone seconded that motion.

Fourth District Supervisor Natalie Arroyo noted the long and complex history of the region, saying she’s working to educate herself on the pertinent issues. She noted that there’s “a lot of pain and frustration” in the community.

“I don’t think this [resolution] fully captures the full breadth of people’s perspectives or feelings about it, but I believe it’s a fairly content-neutral but important statement to make.”

Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell disagreed, saying that while she supports “the peace statement,” she thinks the resolution “doesn’t capture everything.”

“Like Supervisor Arroyo said, there’s a lot of history and a lot to know and a lot to learn,” Bushnell said.

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn described the resolution as “benign” to the point of being virtually without substance.

“There isn’t anything you can stick your fork into on this,” he said. He later described the resolution as “tapioca” and scoffed at the notion that either Hamas or Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu will care about it. But he went on to vote for it on the grounds that it might make somebody out there “feel more comfortable that they’ve done their part.”

Arroyo, Madrone and Wilson also voted “yes,” and thus the motion passed 4-0-1, with Bushnell abstaining.


DOCUMENT: Resolution for Peace in Response to the Middle East Crisis