Friday, July 19, 2024

We write to urge the new Cambridge City Council to pass a policy order resolution calling for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

The previous council voted not to even discuss a 2023 cease-fire order, despite three and a half hours of passionate and informed public commentary. Most of the councillors did not vote for or against the order, but instead voted to dispose of the matter by voting “present” on a motion to end debate. Some members later reported to Cambridge Day that they had come to the meeting with amendments they wanted to propose and discuss, but that opportunity was not presented.

We believe this outcome was not a fair representation of either the ideas expressed or the urgency of this deadly matter. A newly seated council has the chance to better serve constituents by reintroducing the order or a similar resolution calling for a cease-fire. It would show due respect for the 200-plus Cantabrigians who offered testimony and expected council consideration. Although such a resolution would not address the underlying causes or present suggested solutions to the situation in the Middle East, passing it would recognize that a cease-fire was a crucial step toward stopping the massive bloodshed, destruction of life and erasure of medical, educational, religious and cultural institutions in the Gaza Strip.

The genius of the 2023 policy order was its neutrality. It simply called for three things: an immediate and lasting cease-fire in Gaza; opening the blockade to allow the massive humanitarian relief required to decrease the suffering of Gaza’s residents; and communication of the order to our national elected representatives.

Some argue that the council has no power to change U.S. foreign policy, and therefore it should not consider issues beyond local control.

This position ignores a long tradition of Cambridge City Council support for global humanitarian causes. Led by Caroline Hunter and others, the council joined the campaign to end Apartheid in South Africa; opposed wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua; supported human rights in the Philippines; and endorsed Back from the Brink and divestment from manufacturers of nuclear weapons. The Cambridge sister city initiative with San José Las Flores, El Salvador, was not just a token resolution. It actually ensured protection for people in a country where 70,000 people were killed by a military funded by the United States.

Moreover, this Cambridge human rights tradition is shared by communities across the country that have already passed resolutions supporting an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza. This movement includes, among others: in California, Berkeley, Cotati, Cudahy, Davis, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco; in Connecticut, Bridgeport; in Delaware, Wilmington; in Georgia, Atlanta; in Iowa, Iowa City; in Maine, Portland; in Michigan, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Hamtramck and Ypsilanti; in Minnesota, Hastings; in New York, Albany; in Ohio, Akron; in Rhode Island, Providence; and in Washington: Bellingham.

Cambridge councillors are elected to represent and be the voice for our city. Our national leaders are failing us. Though polls indicate that a large majority of the U.S. population favors an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, our president and Congress have turned a deaf ear to their pleas. The calls for a cease-fire are coming from the grassroots, from the people whose power comes from collective organizing, from the people who pay tax dollars that are being used to support the military assault. As local “grassroots” leaders, councillors should help elevate the voice of local people who want to end the killing in Gaza of the Palestinian civilian population and Israeli soldiers.

We urge the introduction and passage of either the 2023 order or a similar resolution calling for an immediate and lasting cease-fire. We favor a resolution that does not place blame on either Hamas or Israel, but simply adds the voice of Cambridge residents to the international community’s call for an immediate, permanent cessation of the killing and provision of humanitarian relief to the afflicted.

The Cambridge Residents Alliance board of directors