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Thoughts on City Council Resolutions on Foreign Policy


I was at a meeting the other day where someone raised a question about an area of concern in town that the City Council should address.  A former alderman, also in attendance agreed, but noted that the city has limited resources and unfortunately does not have time to deal with every issue.  I suspect that is true of most communities which have full agendas to attend to within their own city limits.  Thus, it is surprising, perhaps, that resolutions have been offered, discussed, and passed in a number of U.S. cities, including Chicago, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.  Hours have been devoted to the two sides debating this controversial topic rather than city officials dealing with more pressing problems at home.


Such a resolution was brought up at the last city council meeting of our neighboring city of Naperville where many of our congregants live. In an opinion piece in Naperville’s City Council Watchdog entitled “Is Naperville’s Council the United Nations Now?” the author mentions numerous speakers appearing and calling for such a resolution to be passed by Naperville.  The author comments, ‘To what end is unclear.  Is the protestors’ objective to intimidate and bully our local Jewish residents?  Is it to flex political muscle?  Is it to add drama and chaos to a political environment that is already neck deep in drama and chaos?”


The discussion has been postponed in Naperville for now and the mayor has indicated that he and several council members have made it known that they have no plans to bring up such a resolution at future meetings. But Chicago’s mayor broke a tie vote to pass such a motion.  The author of this piece mentions (though I have been unable to confirm this) that after Chicago passed its resolution recently, Tel Aviv ridiculed it by passing their own aptly named “Ceasefire in Chicago” resolution.  Whether or not that is true, it points out how inappropriate it is for local municipalities to be weighing in on foreign policy issues when they have to deal with significant gun violence in their own communities among other problems.


These resolutions tend to be rather one-sided as well. Any resolution that focuses solely on the loss of civilian lives in Gaza without mentioning the more than one hundred hostages still being held by Hamas and the brutal, unprovoked attack on October 7th on Israeli civilians that led to a powerful Israeli response is not only unfair, but clearly antisemitic in intent. Whether one approves of the current Israeli coalition government, whether or not one accepts the military strategy being pursued, why should the Naperville or Chicago or Atlanta or Los Angeles city councils and others consider or pass such resolutions now when they have not said a word about other problems around the world?  Don’t they have enough problems to deal with in their own cities? (A ceasefire in Chicago from all the gun violence would certainly be welcome.)  Are they suddenly awakened to their responsibility for U.S. Foreign policy?  If so, where have they been prior to October 7th?  Did they pass a resolution condemning the unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine with its horrible loss of life and destruction of property?  Are they concerned about the welfare of Muslim Uighurs in China?  Have they issued resolutions about oppressive regimes in Latin America or elsewhere in Asia or Africa?  The world is filled with violence and oppression.  City councils can fill their agenda to overflowing if this is what they think they have been elected to do. My thought is that we elected them to take care of our local needs.


Hamas has been labeled worldwide as a terrorist group and nobody can argue that Israel has no right as a sovereign nation to respond to the massacre of 1200 of its citizens by this group.  By singling out Israel for condemnation in these resolutions, one reveals one’s true intent and that can only be interpreted as antisemitism. Where is the call for the release of the hostages taken by Hamas, men, women, children, old and young, some with serious medical conditions and disabilities?  Israel continues to mourn the greatest loss of life in a single day in Jewish history since the Holocaust and hundreds of people have been displaced and their homes destroyed.  The videos proudly displayed by the terrorists are so gruesome that even their description by those who have seen them turns the stomach of any decent person.  Yet the voices of protest from the women’s rights movement are hardly heard regarding the documented sexual violence upon women and little girls.  On the other hand, what other army goes to the trouble of warning civilians to evacuate as does Israel, even making calls to cellphones to notify people of impending attacks?


Nobody really knows the extent of the loss of life in Gaza.  The authorities who have come up with these astronomical figures are totally unreliable.  Early in the war, you may remember, they claimed hundreds of casualties in a bombing of a hospital, only to have to retreat in the face of photographic evidence and finally admit that the explosion was caused not by an Israeli bomb, but by an off-target rocket fired by Islamic Jihad and the number killed was very small as it fell not in the hospital but in its parking lot.  They also have admitted that this number of casualties includes Hamas combatants who have fallen in battle, hardly innocent. Regardless, wars are terrible and civilian loss of life is horrible – every life lost is a tragedy - and everything should be done to avoid it or at least to limit it. We see efforts made by Israel to do so.  On the other hand, we also see efforts by Hamas to maximize the loss of civilian lives among their populace and then to capitalize on it with their worldwide, well-financed propaganda campaign. 


When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, there were hopes that perhaps now, this population, kept artificially imprisoned in this territory and not welcomed for all those years by the surrounding Arab nations, might catch a break. Billions of dollars that were poured into the area might have created a coastal resort on the Mediterranean.  Public works projects could have improved the living conditions of the residents.  Instead of taking advantage of these funds to serve their constituents, we have seen and continue to learn more about the misappropriation of these funds by Hamas.  Over 300 miles of tunnels have been uncovered, revealing an underground network, the headquarters and hiding places for these terrorists.  They have created workshops for fashioning rockets and other weapons which have been continuously fired into Israel for years now.  There are stockpiles of food and medical supplies that could have provided assistance to the residents of Gaza but have been reserved for Hamas alone.  What government that is at all concerned with the welfare of its constituents builds its military bases under hospitals, schools, orphanages, refugee camps, and other facilities where civilian life is potentially endangered?  It is tragic that so many civilians have died.  What has Hamas done to prevent it?  Why do other Arab countries refuse to admit refugees from the Strip, at least on a temporary basis?


We should know that this is not a war against Islam, nor even against the Palestinians. Some of the victims on October 7th were Israeli Arabs, Muslim or Christian or of other faiths, they were full citizens of Israel. This is a war for survival against an intractable enemy who is not interested really in the welfare of Palestinians, is not fighting for a Palestinian state, but who has clearly expressed their mission as nothing less than the destruction of Israel and of Jews wherever they may live.  Some who know a bit of history may claim that a Palestinian state has existed on the other side of the Jordan since 1922 when the British mandate was split into “Palestine” and “Transjordan.”  Others may point to the 1947 resolution by the UN calling for the partition of “Palestine” between Jews and Arabs.  Israel accepted this resolution the Arabs refused and attacked the newborn state. Several other offers over decades that would have led to a separate state have been rejected. 


As Americans we have the right to free speech and we are free to express our views on the course of this current war. Sympathizing with those who have lost their lives in this unnecessary war created by Hamas is understandable, but one should also acknowledge the terrible losses on the Israeli side. There has always been a Jewish population in the land of Israel, under a long line of ruling powers. The same people who applauded the national liberation movements of other countries in Africa and Asia, should also recognize the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, the Zionist movement, that created the State of Israel, with the blessing of the world community at the United Nations, 75 years ago. It has been a refuge for those Jews who survived the “Final Solution” that destroyed one third of the Jewish population of the world.  It has welcomed over 600,000 Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries where they had lived for the most part peacefully with their neighbors for centuries but now had to leave and were absorbed into Israeli society.  That process did not occur for a similar number of Arab residents of Mandatory Palestine, who did not accept the offer enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, to remain in the newborn state as full citizens and instead of being welcomed into the many Arab states in the area, have been forced to live in refugee camps where they, their children, and grandchildren continue to remain.  More recently, large numbers of Jews emigrated from the former Soviet Union to escape Communist rule and have made their homes in Israel as did the Beta Yisrael community of Ethiopian Jews who were rescued from persecution in the ‘90s.  The sadistic slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is often chanted by young people who have no idea which river and which sea are being spoken of.  If one knows the geography, one realizes that it is a call for the destruction of the state which lies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the State of Israel, plain and simple.


None of us knows what the “day after” will look like in Gaza and who will take charge of the Gaza Strip. It’s a “hot potato” that nobody wants to deal with, but there are real people there who deserve better than Hamas and our hope is that at least some of the dreams they had for a better life in Gaza may come to fruition once the shooting stops, once Hamas is removed.  If our municipal governments want to pass resolutions, they might better advance the efforts to fight hatred and bigotry in this country, to do away with antisemitism and Islamaphobia, causeless hatred of the other, to bring all peoples together for the betterment of our communities.







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