Sacramento Mayor Steinberg, Palestinian Americans express unity amid ongoing Israel-Hamas war

A group of Palestinian Americans and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg expressed unity during a city council meeting this week despite their conflicting points of view on the war between Israel and Hamas.

Steinberg, who is Jewish, spoke after the meeting with multiple Palestinian Americans who asked the Sacramento City Council to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip amid the need for humanitarian aid for people living in the conflict areas. Many who attended the meeting to speak expressed the devastation wrought in Gaza is a humanitarian issue, not a political one.

More than 1,400 people in Israel were killed during a Hamas attack on Oct. 7. The Health Ministry in Gaza said more than 7,300 Palestinians died as Israel launched airstrikes, according to the Associated Press.

“Even though it was a small moment ... in a troubled world, it just gave me hope that maybe peace is really possible,” Steinberg said Friday.

The expressions of unity began when some public speakers uttered antisemitic comments toward Steinberg and called him a racist. Audience members, who were speaking about the war, began to leave which prompted Steinberg to ask them to stay.

Amira Saqqa, a Palestinian American who spoke at the meeting, said afterward the group had left because their comments were not intended to be disrespectful. She noted residents and Steinberg talked for about 15 minutes after the meeting about Palestinian history.

“I think it was a really big moment for the city council,” Saqqa added. “Honestly, I think they learned a lot that day.”

Steinberg noted he has a different perspective on the Middle East and its history from those who came to the meeting. Despite those differences, he viewed the majority of public commenters as respectful.

“I was just very moved by the reaction of Palestinian Americans,” Steinberg said, while adding their actions are a model for what civic dialogue ought to be.

Steinberg, who supports a two-state solution, said he doesn’t know if a formal resolution calling for peace is necessary, but does support exploring the idea when talking about the suffering of innocent people. He added the messages on Tuesday were a great message within itself.

A resolution detailing the city of Sacramento’s solidarity with humanity is just as important as passing a similar one in the California Legislature or in Congress, Saqqa said. It ensures more people will see the message taken by the city and stand with them, she added.

“We need to push the politics aside and realize that people are people and they are suffering,” said Haya Akkad, another public speaker.