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City Council to consider a resolution calling for Gaza ceasefire

City Hall, 120 N. Duke St., Lancaster. (Source: OUL file) Inset: Damage from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza city on Monday Oct. 9, 2023. (Source: Wikimedia)

Lancaster City Council will consider a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza at its upcoming June 25 meeting.

Local activists have been pushing council to do so, saying it’s incumbent upon Lancaster, if it truly wishes to live up to its status as a certified “Welcoming City,” to take a stand against Israel’s actions and U.S. complicity. More than two dozen of them were in Nelson W. Polite Sr. Council Chambers on Tuesday, and they applauded Councilman Ahmed Ahmed when he announced he would introduce the measure.

Click to enlarge. (Source: City of Lancaster)

Council President Amanda Bakay provided a draft (PDF) to One United Lancaster. It calls for an “immediate and permanent” ceasefire, the provision of aid in Gaza and the end of “unconditioned” U.S. military aid to Israel.

It acknowledges the Oct. 7, 2023, attack by “Hamas terrorists” that killed more than 1,200 Israelis; and the more than 36,000 Palestinians killed and 81,000 wounded since then.

Upon its passage, copies of the resolution are to be sent to Lancaster’s Congressional representatives; Gov. Josh Shapiro, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the leaders of the U.S. State and Defense departments.

Ahmed Ahmed

“I believe that this resolution is centered around peace and solidarity with refugees who could potentially be our neighbors,” Ahmed, himself a former refugee, said in an email. It recognizes the city’s commitment to all its citizens and its obligation to battle all discrimination, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, he said.

Ahmed said he received input from local activists and representatives of the Palestinian, Muslim and Israeli communities.

Bakay had previously expressed reservations about a ceasefire resolution, saying it could incite animosity towards Palestinians and Muslims. Activists from those communities said they’re entitled to weigh that risk themselves, and that they are committed to a resolution no matter what. That’s a valid point, Bakay told One United Lancaster after Tuesday’s meeting: “If there are members of that community that are advocating for it, then it’s worthwhile to consider.”

Rabbi Jack Paskoff officiates at Congregation Shaarai Shomayim. He said he has seen and provided feedback on various iterations of the resolution, but was not involved in drafting it per se.

“I do not believe that this is in the purview of City Council, nor do I believe it is the best use of the council’s time,” he said in an email. He said he doesn’t support the resolution but “I can live with the current iteration.”

During Tuesday’s public comment period, nearly a dozen speakers called for resolution’s passage, condemning Israel’s military action as genocide and “shameful colonial violence.”

The resolution would send a message to the local community and to state and federal leaders, they said. By passing a resolution, City Council “would be making this community a much safer place,” said Keri Weaver of Mennonite Action.

The U.S. is currently attempting to broker a ceasefire deal announced by President Biden on May 31. As of Wednesday, the outcome remained uncertain. The U.S. says Israel has agreed, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not said so publicly; Hamas is reportedly pushing for modifications to the terms.