Residents push Easthampton City Council to pass cease-fire in Gaza resolution quickly

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. AP

By CHAD CAIN

Staff Writer

Published: 02-23-2024 5:29 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Supporters of a recently-introduced resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza urged the City Council this week to advance the measure to a vote as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Northampton City Council and Amherst Town Council are also considering cease-fire resolutions. Dozens of residents attended last week’s council meeting in Northampton to demand the council move ahead with a measure. Councilors were expected to hold a special City Council meeting next week, where three resolutions will be introduced. Amherst, meanwhile, was originally scheduled to discuss its measure on Monday but is rescheduling the meeting after officials determined the council chambers would be too small to accommodate the number of expected speakers.

At the Easthampton City Council meeting on Wednesday, a handful of residents urged the council to approve the resolution.

“I was horrified by what happened on Oct. 7 to Israelis and then I’ve been horrified in the 138 days that have followed,” said Carolyn Cushing.

She and others noted the urgency of helping over 1 million people displaced in Rafa, and the possibility of a March 10 offensive in that city in southern Gaza.

“So it is very timely and urgent that ... the City Council take it up and pass it so we can move it on to our representatives and our senators and onto the U.S. government,” she said.

Resident Laurel Gardner echoed Cushing’s comments, saying, “time is of the essence.”

Gardner said that anyone who has paid attention to the entwined histories of Palestinians and Israelis can point recriminating fingers at so many parties for atrocities both recent and historical. But, she said, “That is beside the point at this moment in time. A humanitarian crisis is playing out before the eyes of the world and the U.S. government happens to have a great deal of influence here.”

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Councilors are not allowed to respond during public comment time. The resolution has been put forth by Councilor Koni Denham and council President Homar Gomez, and earlier this month was sent to the Rules Committee for further discussion and refinement.

The resolution condemns the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians and the Netanyahu government’s bombardment of Gaza, and also condemns the recent rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks in Massachusetts and across the U.S. It calls for a cease-fire in the war.

Resident Shelly Greenstein, who was raised Jewish, told councilors that she was sickened by the horrific massacre led by Hamas on Oct. 7, and Israeli’s subsequent goal of vengeance. Four months later, 30,000 mostly Palestinians civilians are dead, Gaza has been destroyed and Palestinians are being rounded up — “does that sound familiar?” she asked — at the Egyptian border.

“So why as U.S. taxpayer are we paying for all of this?” Greenstein asked. “We’re funding the genocide. It’s shocking. Here at the local level, we need to make clear that we believe in a peaceful resolution and there needs to be a permanent cease-fire now.”

Merriam Ansara, who described herself as both Arab and Jewish, agreed, saying that in addition to a cease-fire, she’d like to see the resolution call for an end to the United States’ sending “endless amounts of offensive and aggressive weapons” to the region.

Ansara said it’s important that the city take up this resolution.

“We are a city that is proud of the diversity of people who have come to live here,” she said. “Yes, we are 90% white, but if you think of all the nationalities here, we are a multinational city. I think it’s important that we stand up for all of the people who live here and all of the people that want to live in the United States and that we do it at this moment in history especially.”

The Amherst council’s resolution not only calls for a cease-fire, but the release of hostages and detainees on both sides, ensuring humanitarian aid enters Gaza, and an end to unconditional U.S. military aid to the Israeli government.

On the international scene, the Associated Press reported Friday that cease-fire efforts in the region appeared to gain traction, with mediators to present a new proposal at an expected high-level meeting this weekend in Paris. The U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been struggling for weeks to find a formula that could halt Israel’s devastating offensive in Gaza, but now face an unofficial deadline as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaches.

In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes in the center and south of the territory killed at least 68 Palestinians, including children and women, overnight and into Friday, health officials and an AP journalist said. Another 24 bodies remained trapped under the rubble.

The overall Palestinian death toll since the start of the war rose to more than 29,500, with close to 70,000 people wounded, Gaza health officials said. The death toll amounts to close to 1.3% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million.