Uncategorized · January 30, 2024 1

The Battle for A Ceasefire Resolution In Chicago

Marty Levine

January 30, 2024

I am writing this after returning from the Chicago City Council’s first meeting of 2024 (January 24). I was there to support a resolution that I have been working to get passed, a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

I came home disappointed; those who think Israel has a right to respond to October 7 as it chooses were successful in again delaying a vote. It will be one more week before this resolution will now be brought to the floor of the Chicago City Council.

In the wake of Hamas’ attack on October 7th, the City Council had quickly jumped into action and by October 12 it had passed a resolution that placed Chicago on the side of Israel:

As this resolution was being debated there were protests in the gallery and from some alderpeople that it ignored the historical context of Israel/Palestine and looked away from  the suffering of Palestinians. But the emotions of the moment made those cries easy to ignore and the resolution passed with only one dissenting vote.

The brutality of Israel’s response to the Hamas attack was evident in the rising death count of men, women, and children. It was clearly seen in the growing percentage of housing that was being destroyed and in the flood of Gazans who were being chased from their homes and forced to flee to southern portions of Gaza that were unable to provide their basic needs. If there were any doubts that a horror was taking place in plain view,  the news that on a daily basis children needed arms or legs amputated, often without proper anesthetics, should be enough to wipe them away.

Beyond these stories and the pictures that flashed across my screens on a daily basis coming from Israel’s leaders were not bashful about telling the world what they were doing.  Crimes that fall under the definitions of acts of ethnic cleansing, and genocide were often reported as victories.  As reported by the Washington Post earlier this month, “Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition have called for the dropping of a nuclear bomb on densely-populated Gaza, the total annihilation of the territory as a mark of retribution, and the immiseration of its people to the point that they have no choice but to abandon their homeland…This week alone, a parliamentarian from Netanyahu’s Likud party went on television and said it was clear to most Israelis that “all the Gazans need to be destroyed.” 

Yet calling for a ceasefire remains difficult because Israel’s American supporters remain locked into their position. If Israel’s government, a government that was being condemned by many of those supporters for its anti-democratic stance before October 7th, said the killing must go on, then pivoted and said that asking for a ceasefire made you a supporter of Hamas and a supporter of the brutality of October 7th. No matter how blatant the suffering of the Palestinian people, no matter how dire the situation was in Gaza, no matter how many Palestinians were being detained without charges or even a right to consult with counsel, Israel was to be defended until Israel told its supporters to stop.

When progressive Alderpeople in Chicago filed a resolution at the beginning of November calling for a ceasefire and the return of the hostages and detainees, they were met with the full power of Israel’s supporters. Using the City Council’s rules as a weapon they were able to keep it from being brought to the floor for debate and a vote through the end of 2023. The Ceasefire resolution’s supporters were finally able to outplay the Parliamentary game and get a ceasefire resolution out of limbo and on the action agenda of the Council.

But by last January 24th,  we ceasefire supporters faced another tactic. Rather than just delay, the issue of antisemitism was brought out of the closet.

I subscribe to a Jewish Holiday calendar that tells me that January 25th is our New Year for Trees, Tu B’shvat.  It tells me that January 27th is Shabbat Shirah, marking the portion of the bible we will be reading that day, a portion that includes as the story of the Jewish slaves crossing over the Red Sea on the flight from Egypt and the slaughter of the Egyptians who were chasing them. What it does not tell me is that that same day, January 27th, is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

It is just not front and center on the Jewish communal agenda and certainly not on the general American consciousness.

But those wanting to block consideration of a call for a ceasefire didn’t miss it!

They seized on it. 

They filed their own resolution, one asking the City Council to recognize this important this day and claiming it disrespectful to the Jewish community to discuss a ceasefire just three days before fell! Invoking the horrors of the Holocaust and the trauma to the Jewish community as weapons and placing those who dared to differ with them as, at best, insensitive and at worst as antisemitic! They wanted to delay for one more month.

As the Alderwoman leading this obstruction put in the  request she sent to all of her colleagues:

“International Holocaust Remembrance Day is also on Jan. 27, and the City Council is set to consider a resolution commemorating 79 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. In deference to this commemoration, and out of sensitivity to the Holocaust survivors who suffered so horribly, we do not believe the January meeting is the proper time to discuss this.”

To discuss an end to one genocide would disrespect the memory of those who died in another?

And when the commemoration resolution was brought up for consideration, its supporters ignored any of the reality of Gaza. It was as if the more than 100 days of slaughter, the more than 25,000 deaths, and the destruction of an entire community were occurring before their eyes. The pain of Palestinians in the City Council gallery who loudly reacted to their words was not of importance at all. It was those standing up for the people of Gaza that were the committers of atrocities! “And as you see individuals twisting words and narratives and playing the victim when they are the aggressor,” Ald. Ray Lopez said.

What played out this week in Chicago is part of a national playbook that is ready to twist history, and cast every moment into a reason that Israel must continue to kill and destroy. The key elements of this  rationale for ignoring what is a horror, perhaps even a genocide are

  • Hamas and only Hamas are the terrorists.
  • They are the Nazis of this day. Every death, Israeli or Palestinian, is HMAS’ fault.
  • Israel has no responsibility and is doing all it can to minimize “collateral damage”.
  • Hostages must be released and Palestinian detainees are to be ignored.
  • Israel has a right, even the responsibility, to decide when and if Palestinians have any rights to self-determination and nationhood.

That the language of the Chicago Ceasefire resolution clearly calls for hostages to be freed, but its opponents keep screaming that it is biased and pro-Hamas because it does not speak to the plight of the hostages! So the vote on the ceasefire resolution was deferred one more week. Sadly, it will need to be amended again because with each delay the number of dead and wounded it sites must be adjusted up.

And the political battle goes on with the goal of getting 26 Alderpeople willing to risk the ire of the pro-Israel forces.

It is difficult not just because most voters don’t want a ceasefire; poll after poll has shown that they do. It is difficult because we are battling against a powerful and well-funded opponent whose commitment to support Israel is so strong that they just ignore the mayhem being done in their name.

One wonders how they sleep at night.