Some individuals have respect for the (admittedly problematic) democratic functioning of local government. And then some people are anti-democratic hacks like John Gertz.
In short, in 2002, the Berkeley City Council almost approved a resolution divesting the city from its investments in Israel. In 2003, it did narrowly pass a resolution which called for nothing more than an investigation into the killing of Rachel Corrie - an American ISM activist crushed to death by a bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier in Gaza. (For more on that resolution, see Tom Joad, who alerted many of us about this more recent issue.)
Enter John Gertz, former president of the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center and holder of the Zorro trademark, who it seems is not particularly fond of investigations. Since the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, which makes recommendations to the City Council on international issues, did not take a stand that appeased Gertz, he decided to try a little old-fashioned threatening.
After the Corrie vote, Peace and Justice Commissioner Elliot Cohen said Gertz met with several colleagues and demanded that they rescind their votes. “He told us we had to reverse our vote or else,” Cohen said.
For Gertz, his vendetta over the Corrie vote goes beyond the Peace and Justice Commission. He is focusing on future mayoral elections when two councilmembers who voted for the Corrie resolution, Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington, might run for the city’s top job.
“The real political objective is that Maio is going down and so is Worthington,” Gertz said in a phone interview, but didn’t specify how he would ensure their defeat. “They refused to rescind their vote on Corrie. That’s it for them. They’re toast.”
Someone never learned how to play nice with others, huh? Gertz and other reactionary Berkeleyites have now managed to transform the Peace and Justice Commission into an Uphold the Status Quo Commission. They've even got a former AIPAC staffer on it. For example,
The same commission that in 2001 voted unanimously to support conscientious objectors to war couldn’t muster an eight-vote majority last month to support a federal Department of Peace.
In the end though, perhaps it's not worth getting that upset over. Berkeley really isn't that progressive of a place. It's more of a town for people who want to feel good about the fact that their sweatshop coffee served to them by exploited workers that they enjoy while driving their SUV doesn't come in a styrofoam cup.