It was standing room only at Tuesday’s Davis City Council meeting as over 150 people clamored for a chance to speak their mind on the ongoing war in Gaza.
The City Council was considering a resolution calling for peace in Gaza, where Israel and Hamas have been fighting a bloody battle for three weeks. The resolution did not lay blame on either side or seek a specific solution to the matter, but instead called for “an immediate, durable, fully respected ceasefire” and a “lasting humanitarian truce.”
Over 40 community members spoke during a public comment session that lasted three and a half hours. Roughly half of the commentators spoke in favor of the resolution, while the other half asked the council not to pass the resolution.
In the end, the council voted unanimously to refer the issue to the city’s Human Relations Commission, instructing that group to convene a community forum on the matter.
“This resolution has not helped to create peace in our community,“ said Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor. “If anything it’s created polarization.“
The rest of the council generally shared Saylor’s view, saying that although the resolution was drafted in a spirit of unity and peace, passing it would not be doing the community a service.
The resolution sparked passionate statements from students and community members with Palestinian, Jewish and other backgrounds. Many shared personal stories of pain and loss due to ongoing violence between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.
Mervett Isbeih said she felt that both sides needed to stop repeating history.
“The blood of both Palestinians and Israelis is the same,” she said. “Our main goal is to stop any kind of violence.“
Dina El-Nakhal said she thought the resolution was necessary.
“It’s rather difficult for me to understand why anyone who supports peace would not support this resolution,” she said.
Davis resident Shulamit Glazerman called the resolution a “thinly veiled excuse for taking sides.“
“Israel’s operations are entirely defensive in nature,” she said. “It is inappropriate and irresponsible [to pass a resolution that ignores this].“
Many of the pro-Israel speakers shared the same view, saying a resolution passed at this time would give the benefit of the doubt to Hamas. Others were concerned that the resolution had been rushed without adequate input from both sides.
The resolution was prompted by a group of pro-Palestine students who came to last week’s meeting demanding that the council pass a resolution they had drafted. The council formed a subcommittee of councilmembers Lamar Heystek and Stephen Souza to draft a resolution calling for peace.
Tuesday night was not the first time the City Council has taken up matters of international importance. In the 1970s, the council passed a resolution opposing the Vietnam War, and in 2004 the council passed a resolution opposing the Iraq War. The council has also passed resolutions supporting the Kyoto Protocol and opposing the PATRIOT Act.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.