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Divided Youngstown council OKs cease-fire resolution for Israel-Hamas War 4-3

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown City Council narrowly passed a resolution Thursday supporting a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza.

But it may mean less peace than its proponents had hoped.

“These resolutions are symbolic, but now we sign it and send it on to our state and federal representatives, and we let them know it’s the will of council,” said Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, who co-sponsored the resolution with Councilwoman Amber White, D-7th Ward. “It just adds to the voices that are calling for an end to violence in the Middle East, and shows we are in solidarity in that way.”

The decision was contentious, passed by a 4-to-3 margin, with Council members Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward; and Pat Kelly, D-5th Ward, joining Turner and White.

It comes after months of discussion and petitions from community members.

Councilmen Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, and Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, and Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, voted against the measure, but Oliver and Ray said they plan to introduce new legislation.

“I am committed to presenting something different than this piece,” Ray said. “I think we have heard the cry form the community and we see the importance of addressing it.”

“I will consider something else, but for me I just feel like this was put forth in a deceitful way,” Oliver said.

Turner notified members early Wednesday of her intent to present the resolution, but members were surprised when the legislation that came to them indicated that it was supported by the full council.

“That was an error in the law department,” Turner said “Only four people should have been listed as sponsors.”

The resolution, originally introduced to council in April by the Arab American Community Center of Youngstown, is similar to legislation passed in Akron, Cleveland, and several other Ohio cities.

“Expressing sympathy for the innocent civilians victimized by the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza; condemning violence of any kind; affirming Youngstown’s status as a welcoming community for those of the Jewish and Islamic religions and any other religions; encouraging residents to offer support and sincere condolences to members of the Jewish and Palestinian communities of Youngstown and all over the world.”

However, Turner said council also received a letter, dated April 3, from the Jewish Federation of Youngstown, and the resolution was reworded to reflect the concerns expressed in that letter.

The letter states that a “one-sided cease-fire resolution…would serve only to divide the citizens of Youngstown, not unite us.”

It cites the Oct. 7 attack by internationally-renowned terrorist group Hamas, which killed roughly 1,190 Israelis; addresses the acts of brutality, including rape committed during that attack; mentions repeated attempts by Israel to end the conflict, which it says have been consistently rejected by Hamas; and outlines all the ways it says Hamas has intentionally accelerated the war, and oppressed and exploited the Palestinian people to further it.

Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, Youngstown Area Jewish Federation executive director of community relations / government affairs, said the federation supports a cease-fire if Hamas is out of power, all of the hostages are released and Israel can live in security.

PUBLIC PRESSURE

Suhad Hadi, a local podiatrist and president of the Arab-American Community Center of Youngstown, said similar legislation has been passed by local government bodies in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Hilliard, Dayton, Yellow Springs, Chauncey and Athens.

Hadi said the resolution is about creating momentum.

“This is not going to make immediate change happen, especially at the national level. But if we take politics back down to the grass roots, when you can gain city support, and see multiple cities follow suit, then you can get a domino effect,” she said. “When we make decisions like this as a community, when we stand together on our similarities rather than our differences, I think this is when bigger change can come.”

Hadi also addressed council Thursday, and said her father’s family has lost 43 members to the violence in Gaza. She also cited several statistics, including:

1.7 million Palestinians who have fled homes.

850,000 children who have fled with family.

20,000 children orphaned.

1,500 child amputees from bombings.

0 schools and hospitals left in Gaza.

Joining Hadi at the podium were a local businessman and two YSU students.

Gassan Musleh, who owns several area businesses, including the Shell gas station at Wilson Avenue and Center Street, said he has donated water to victims of the East Palestine train derailment and feeds the homeless from his store, provides robust support for youth sports, and has given away more than $2,000 in gas during tough economic times last year.

“We all know passing this resolution is not going to stop the genocide in Gaza, nor are you taking sides. But we do know it is a show of good faith in our leaders and in our city, showing that you care about your active community members like myself,” he said. “We have lost loved ones. You should show your support for us as we have shown our support for you and this community.”

YSU student Lauren Burgess said she agrees in a way with some of the council members.

“I too will say that I view this resolution as BS, but not for the same reason that some of you might,” she said. “This resolution is BS because it can’t end the war, it does not ensure a free Palestine, it won’t bring back the tens of thousands of already dead children, nor will it ensure the safe release of the hostages.This resolution is nothing more than a symbolic gesture meant to represent our community’s distaste for war.”

Burgess, 23, of Struthers, said she has been targeted by Israeli extremists after she attended a pro-Palestinian rally. She said they posted her profile on the website “Canary Mission,” which has been criticized for doxing college students, slandering them and rallying other extremists to antagonize them online and even ruin their job prospects.

“I got harassed on every forum. They’d say things like ‘you deserve to get raped,’ or ‘I hope they send you to Gaza,’ and ‘you should be deported,'” she said.

Burgess said they even contacted YSU to try to get her expelled.

“It was quite alarming. It was terrifying, actually.”

JEWISH COMMUNITY RESPONSE

The feeling of victory for the pro-Palestinian crowd at Thursday’s meeting was short-lived, as

Davis handed them a stern diatribe.

“This resolution passed. But now I want you to take it to every other community and make them pass it. You take it to Poland, you take it to Boardman, and make them pass it,” she said. “You all come here to Youngstown, time and again, to push things. You take it elsewhere and push it there, too. It’s not worth a dime.”

Deutsch Burdman said she can understand Davis’s frustration with the process and with some of the participants.

“We had spoken with several members of council in advance of the meeting,” she said. “We did not feel it was necessary to further cause a great scene in council and fan flames of discord. And contribute to anything that would make a mockery of council proceedings.”

She said previous meetings in which the topic was discussed became disorderly, so no members of the Jewish Federation were present at the meeting.

“Some of the vitriol folks were spewing was pretty hurtful, and we did not want to participate and be at risk of being shouted down in the same way they were doing to some members of council. We made a conscious decision not to be there,” Deutsch Burdman said.

She said she does not believe the resolution achieves anything good.

“What does this resolution accomplish? Very little other than sowing more discord,” she said. “We’ve never asked for a resolution for that reason, and because we know some citizens would have disagreements with that. So we never asked for one.”

She said resolutions like this, and the “dubious process” by which she feels it was passed distract from the facts of the conflict.

“There may be some sense among a few who feel they have a moral victory here, but I’m concerned about the facts on the ground,” she said. “I’m concerned about the hostages,

the families who have been torn apart. The survivors of the sexual violence, which many still claim never happened. And I’m concerned about the meteoric rise of antisemitism on college campuses across the country.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Dan Pompili by email at dpompili@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

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