Amherst Residents Invited to Join The Growing List of Sponsors
The Government Organization and Legislation Committee (GOL) of the Amherst Town Council unanimously approved (5-0) as “clear, consistent, and actionable” a Resolution in Support of a Ceasefire in Gaza at their meeting of February 8 and sent it on to the Town Council for further consideration. The council is expected to take up the resolution for substantive discussion and an endorsement vote at their next meeting on February 26. The ceasefire resolution is sponsored by two town councilors, Patricia De Angelis (District 2) and Ellisha Walker (at large), and a group of 240 community sponsors, all Amherst residents, which has grown to 354 as of February 16 and is expected to continue to grow. The resolution was first submitted to the Amherst Town Council on January 22 and announced during public comment at the most recent council meeting on February 5 (see also here).
To date, the town-wide response to the ceasefire initiative has been very positive. Inspired by the success of dozens of such resolutions in towns and cities across the country, it has grown organically from a first draft on Martin Luther King Day and circulated by email and word of mouth, into a campaign with sponsors in every district and constituency in Amherst. The group of community sponsors is genuinely diverse, not by some imposed design, but because the horror of the devastation in Gaza, its continuing fallout throughout the region, and the pall it casts upon the future of the next generation, is a nightmare that overshadows everything else, from domestic politics in a presidential election year to local issues in towns and cities across the United States. Americans are very much aware that it is their tax dollars that go to provide the massive amounts of military aid that enable the bombardment of Gaza to continue.
Nothing can begin without a ceasefire. A ceasefire is the minimum pre-requisite for real political and diplomatic solutions to begin to be hammered out, for the long ordeal of the Israeli hostages to be ended at last, for food, water, medical supplies, and fuel to begin to address the needs of nearly two million displaced and starving people, for plans to rebuild from the rubble of the blasted homes can even begin to be realized, for the killing and maiming and orphaning of children to stop. Nothing can begin without a ceasefire. The people of Amherst, like people everywhere, know this.
From the outset, the loosely coordinated Amherst4Ceasefire team have been doing all we can to set a respectful tone for the conversation and to acknowledge the feelings of our townspeople at a time when many of us are deeply distressed. We see this resolution as a community-building initiative, one that will bring us together and enable all Amherst residents to feel safe and feel heard. It is being welcomed with relief by many of our townspeople, especially those who are the most affected by the ongoing onslaught in Gaza, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, or Arab Americans. Almost everyone we have spoken to or corresponded with to date has signed on without hesitation, and the few who have declined have responded courteously, willing to enter into a civil conversation.
Below we print the resolution in its entirety with its accompanying cover letter.
To the Amherst Town Council:
On October 16, 2023, the Amherst Town Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution to condemn the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel that killed more than a thousand Israelis. The resolution grieved for the Hamas-held hostages and their families, and also for civilians in Gaza “caught in the crossfire.” It stood in solidarity with members of the Amherst community who were affected by the crisis and, further, committed to join with others working for peaceful and just solutions.
Since then, the Israeli government response has been relentless. The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, nearly half of them children, has topped 28,800. Nearly two million residents of Gaza have been forced to leave their homes and, with humanitarian aid into Gaza blocked, aid agencies warn that more than half a million are facing death by starvation and disease. By mid-December 2023, “Israel had dropped 29,000 bombs, munitions and shells on the strip. Nearly 70% of Gaza’s 439,000 homes and about half of its buildings ha[d] been damaged or destroyed” (Malsin and Shah, WSJ, December 30, 2023). The conflict, unchecked, is rapidly spreading to the West Bank, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and beyond, while Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to continue the onslaught until “total victory” has been achieved. None of this violence enables the safe return of the remaining Israeli hostages. And still the United States government continues to pledge massive amounts of unconditional military aid to Israel and to resist international calls for a permanent ceasefire.
Nearly four months after the council’s initial resolution, issued in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack, we believe that it is time for Amherst to issue a follow-up resolution. The situation as it stands demands that we call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire, for the release of all the hostages and detainees (see this interview with a spokesperson from B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), for humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza, and for aid agencies and medical personnel to be allowed to do their work safely, and for our own government to stop giving unconditional military aid to the Israeli government. This is not a partisan call, but a humanitarian one.
Since October, 2023, threats, hate speech and attacks on both Jewish Americans and Palestinian and Muslim Americans have skyrocketed. Many members of our community have been deeply affected by the resulting climate of fear and distrust. The situation demands that we reiterate our commitment to support all our townspeople and to keep them safe.
According to a December 2023 poll of likely voters, a majority of Democratic and Independent voters and a plurality of Republican voters wanted the U.S. to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. That percentage was much higher among young voters. Our government’s unconditional support of this war is deeply unpopular among the American people, and it is an election year. Dozens of cities and towns across the country have issued ceasefire resolutions to let the administration know that it is out of step with the American people.
Municipalities across the country have been issuing resolutions calling for a sustained ceasefire in Gaza, but none in Western Massachusetts as yet. Passing a similar resolution in Amherst would not be merely a symbolic act. It would take a stand for peace and join the calls for the U.S. government to listen to the American people on this burning issue.
Josna Rege for the Amherst4Ceasefire team
RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF A CEASEFIRE IN GAZA
(as amended and approved by the GOL, February 8, 2024)
Community Sponsors: 240 Amherst residents
Councilor Sponsors: Patricia De Angelis and Ellisha Walker
WHEREAS, on October 16th, 2023, the Amherst Town Council gave unanimous support to a resolution condemning the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel that took nearly 1,200 lives; and
WHEREAS, since October 7th, 2023, the Israeli government’s siege of Gaza has killed more than 27,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians, nearly half of them children; and
WHEREAS, more than 1.9 million residents of Gaza have been forced to leave their homes, many of them displaced multiple times; and
WHEREAS, humanitarian aid into Gaza has been blocked, threatening more than half a million people with death from starvation and disease; and
WHEREAS, during the temporary ceasefire in November 2023, 110 Israeli and international hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners were released, since then, no further hostages or prisoners have been freed and more than twenty-five have died; and
WHEREAS, since October 7th, 2023, the United States government has pledged an additional $14 billion of unconditional military aid to the Israeli government and sent $250 million without Congressional approval; and
WHEREAS, the United States was the only nation to veto the United Nations Security Council call for a ceasefire; and
WHEREAS, the conflict is rapidly spreading to the West Bank, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and beyond; and
WHEREAS, the climate of fear, anger, and disinformation in the United States—and Amherst has been no exception—has led to an escalation of threats, hate speech, and hate crimes against Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab Americans.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, the Amherst Town Council, call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza, an end to the Israeli military siege of the Gaza Strip, the release of the hostages and detainees on both sides, the removal of obstacles to urgently needed humanitarian aid entering Gaza, and an end to unconditional United States. military aid to the Israeli government.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we extend our support to all the broken-hearted and vulnerable members of our Amherst community who are directly affected by this ongoing crisis, reaffirm our commitment to the safety of all members of our community, and pledge to join with others seeking just and peaceful solutions.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Clerk of the Amherst Town Council shall cause a copy of this Resolution to be sent to President Joseph Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey, and Representative Jim McGovern.
COMMUNITY SPONSORS: AMHERST RESOLUTION FOR A CEASEFIRE IN GAZA
The following is an updated list of the community sponsors of Amherst’s Resolution in Support of a Ceasefire in Gaza, updated on February 16, 2024. Amherst4Ceasefire will continue to add names to the list until the Town Council meeting on February 26. To add your name, go to tinyurl.com/Amherst4Ceasefire.
John Brooks Ballenger
Maria S. Barbon
Lissa Pierce Bonifaz
Marisol Pierce Bonifaz
Lissa Pierce Bonifaz
Marisol Pierce Bonifaz
Mary Ellen Cohane
Toni B. Cunningham
Katja Hahn D’Errico
Brenda K. Davies
Mithi Alexa de los Reyes
Paola Di Stefano
Vira Douangmany Cage
Cora Fernandez Anderson
Katerina Gonzalez Schrade
Laura Jane Hunter
Brian B. Johnson
Jane McPhetres Johnson
Keith W. Johnson
Rabbi Debra Kolodny
Karen Marie Lennon
Manuel Antonio Paradela Maceiras
Linda Barca Moreno
Lynn M. Morgan
Onawumi Jean Moss
Daniel Kojo Schrade
Nicholas M. Simms
Megan St. Marie
Sean St. Marie
James van Luik
Rosemary von Schlegell
Nancy H. Wilson
Nefeli Forni Zervoudaki