Skip to content

A Statement on the Impact of the War in Gaza on California’s Communities


By John Kim and Fred J. Ali, on behalf of the staff and board of Catalyst California

Solidarity between different communities is at the heart of what we do – and is the root of every enduring victory in California’s struggle towards racial equity.  The crises unfolding in Palestine and Israel have strained long-built alliances for racial justice, as well as revealing that there are impacted communities who have not been fully supported through existing partnerships.  Rather than backing away from this challenging work, this is a moment to recommit to those efforts and rebuild solidarity on a new, stronger foundation.

The shocking violence of October 7th has been compounded by the ongoing suffering of Israeli hostages. But the war launched by the Netanyahu government in response has been disproportionate and indiscriminate, killing and maiming tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, including many children, while constricting needed food and medical aid. We call for an immediate cessation of violence, release of all hostages, and a rapid wave of humanitarian aid to support those displaced and harmed by the war.

While eyes have been understandably focused overseas, in California both our million-strong Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) community and our Jewish community have experienced dramatic increases in hate, as well as social isolation, anxiety, and other fallout. In Los Angeles, home to over 184,000 SWANA residents, hate crimes targeting Arab Americans more than tripled between 2022 and 2023, according to the LAPD.  Likewise, in San Diego – with the state’s third-highest number of SWANA residents – the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported that complaints of anti-Muslim actions tripled in 2023.  Jewish Californians have also been attacked and isolated; again per the LAPD, anti-Semitic hate crimes spiked in Los Angeles in October of 2023, and saw an overall 50% year-over-year increase.

Data can only go so far to capture these trends, especially for a SWANA community that has long been rendered invisible by inequitable data practices.  We are also troubled by overly-militarized responses silencing peaceful pro-Palestinian protests, often organized by a multi-racial coalition of Muslims, Jews, and others.

The stress of these months has revealed divisions within and between California’s Jewish and SWANA communities, with compounding impacts across other communities of color. These divisions also serve right-wing authoritarians who correctly identify multi-racial solidarity as the primary threat to their interests.  We know they are actively sowing hate, peddling conspiracy theories and organizing violence against both the SWANA and Jewish communities. 

Countering this aggression and recommitting to solidarity will take intentionality, clarity, and compassion.  Therefore, we commit to amplifying both the voices of SWANA communities and advocates, and those who speak up against anti-Jewish hate and violence.  Because SWANA community members are currently marginalized by many of the state’s power structures and missing even from institutions dedicated to advancing communities of color, we will make specific efforts to promote the inclusion of the SWANA community.  The use of the term “SWANA”, reflecting the diversity of and connections between all the peoples of the region, is one small but meaningful step to support communities long denied the dignity of their own name. But more is needed, including advocating for more and better data reflecting their experiences, building coalitions that incorporate SWANA residents’ unique needs, and urging public officials to recognize and respond to these communities. We will also continue to engage and support those who combat anti-Semitic hate and violence, and Jewish community leaders who have been longstanding partners in the struggle for justice. 

Solidarity is not a linear process.  While our movement for racial equity has grown stronger and stronger in recent decades, the forces of reaction are always pushing back, and times like these will fray the strongest of bonds.  Only by taking nothing for granted, and ensuring all our communities are embraced and heard, can we build the California we all deserve, a California for all of us.

John Kim is President and CEO of Catalyst California. Fred J. Ali is Chair of its Board of Directors.