Letter: An Alternative Ceasefire Resolution


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The following letter was sent to the Amherst Town Council on February 19, 2024.

The draft resolution currently before Town Council calling for next steps in the Middle East is dividing Amherst townspeople into supporters and opposers of the resolution.  That’s unfortunate, because it’s likely that people on both sides would agree about the aggressive actions that should be halted there, and the peaceful steps that should be taken.

A way to bring us all together might be to avoid placing existential blame for the tragic circumstances that exist there, and focus attention on what we all want to achieve.  

Trying to hold everyone or anyone to account would lead to a very long list, and could never start early enough in time to satisfy all of us. We’d blame Hamas for October 7 atrocities and retaining innocent hostages; Netanyahu for reckless bombing of Gaza and refusing to consider the establishment of a Palestinian state; Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen for their roles.   Jordan might be blamed for attacking Israel, leading to Israel’s acquiring the West Bank as a result; Israel might be blamed for retaining possession of it for decades thereafter.  Britain and the United Nations could be blamed for, or credited with, establishing the State of Israel.  The list goes on, and even the very meaning of “Zionist” is now disputed. 

I propose a resolution for consideration by the Town Council that offers present-day support to the residents of the area and looks forward to a peaceful future for all.  I hope it might find widespread approval in Amherst.  My draft resolution follows.


WHEREAS, the Amherst Town Council extends their deep sympathy and strong support to the Palestinians and the Israelis who are the victims of organized aggression and violence in their homelands; and

WHEREAS, we offer our condolence to them for their loss of innocent family members and friends, their injuries, and the destruction of their property; and

WHEREAS, we recognize that the continuation of conflict in their homelands will bring further hardship to the life and liberty of those residents as well as threats to the peace of the entire Middle East with adverse consequences for the rest of the world;  

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Amherst Town Council, on behalf of all the people of Amherst, calls for the following:

An immediate and simultaneous ceasefire by the Israeli government and release of all hostages by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and

The delivery of medicine, food, and other necessary supplies to the residents of Gaza immediately upon the implementation of the ceasefire and release of all hostages, and

The prompt and sincere participation of the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and the leadership of Hamas in peace negotiations led by the United States, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other nations intended to achieve, among other things, a permanent ceasefire in the area and the establishment of a Palestinian State.

AND 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, Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey, and Representative Jim McGovern.

Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal lives on Sunset Avenue in Amherst.  He was Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and of the former Development and Industrial Commission, and was a member of the Select Committee on Goals for Amherst. He was a founder of Hampshire College and its first Chief Financial Officer.

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12 thoughts on “Letter: An Alternative Ceasefire Resolution

  1. I find it extremely problematic the author (and the Amherst Indy) included Arabic text and the Palestinian flag on this piece that attempts to speak over Arab, Palestinian and Muslim communities in Amherst, many of whom, along with an extraordinarily diverse list of community sponsors with different perspectives, support the careful fact-based wording in the Resolution for a Ceasefire in Gaza. The council must not entertain any resolution proposal that has not even consulted Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab members of the community regarding an issue that has now killed over 30 times more Palestinians. This further demonstrates how our communities have been systematically excluded from decisions for which we pay the highest price. Given this, I question whether the author’s intentions are in good faith.

  2. I applaud the effort to calm emotions and to focus on the essential need right now, which is a ceasefire. But I disagree with this way of getting there.

    The heart of the matter is this: We, the U.S. have the obligation – morally and under international law – to do our utmost to bring a halt to this ongoing humanitarian crisis. Despite the huge share of responsibility that the military wing of Hamas bears for the crisis, our point of leverage is with our ally, Israel. The shortest route to a ceasefire is for Israel’s government and the IDF to conclude a ceasefire with Hamas while ending the cutoff of power supply, food, and other basic needs to civilians in Gaza. Period.

    What I find disturbing is the suggestion that the restoration of basic humanitarian conditions should depend on a ceasefire agreement, a return of hostages, whatever. There is no moral or legal basis for a quid pro quo here. No people’s human rights and humanitarian protections are contingent on who started the conflict, who’s at fault, or whether the demands on either side of the fighting are reasonable.

    Getting into the merits of the conflict and its history is a distraction. No need to bring in October 7th again – Amherst is already on record denouncing those atrocities. Calling out ongoing crimes against humanity (and the role of the U.S. in abetting them) also seems to invite controversy. The original resolution strikes the right balance in my view, but if it speeds up our adoption of a statement at this very late date, let’s strip it down to its essentials: a ceasefire and immediate end to the humanitarian disaster.

  3. Since others have spoken to the problematic nature of making human rights conditional, I’ll focus elsewhere.

    I can assure you that this division existed long before the Resolution in Support of a Ceasefire in Gaza (currently in front of the council) was written, and that the unanimous passing of the prior town council resolution condemning Hamas on October 16 was certainly a cause of the recent inflammation of that division.

    The division exists. Our resolution is an attempt by Amherst residents to correct the narrative and bring people back together. Now with more than 540 people and more than a dozen organizations signed on, it appears to be doing that. Moreover, it has provided a platform on which we can speak about these things as opposed to falling into harmful silence and conversations behind closed doors in our echo-chambers.

    Our decision to stop short of proposing a solution (as the Ken Rosenthal, attempts to do here) has led to more unification, not less. It’s easy to throw around words that our resolution is “divisive” and he hopes his will “find widespread approval”. But Amherst4Ceasefire has done the hard work of getting community buy-in over these weeks, and this author has not.

    Finally – I’ll say that the idea that human rights are not conditional is probably the most unifying piece, from what I’ve heard in from our extensive outreach over these weeks. That’s what people are getting behind. So it’s highly unlikely that this resolution would gain any traction. And thankfully, for good reason, it will not be considered by the council.

  4. Shouldn’t the resolution include a statement about the right of the state of Israel, a Jewish state, to exist and call Hamas to recognize this? That, along with unconditional release of all the hostages would result in an immediate and permanency fire. No?

  5. Here’s an idea. Everyone in Amherst who feels strongly about the horrible conflict in Gaza, myself included, writes to their elected federal officials asking for a solution to be sought urgently. Hundreds of letters will carry a lot more weight than one letter from a Town Council that has zero authority to represent the citizens of Amherst on an international stage.

    A Town Councilor told me there is a long history of the Council using our tax dollars and Town staff time to address matters beyond Amherst. You might have a long history of driving on the wrong side of the road but that doesn’t mean you should keep doing that.

    Amherst is filled with bright, well informed people who are perfectly able to express their various opinions. Please, stay in your lane, Councilors.

  6. I agree with Jill Brevik’s comment and Leyla Moushabeck’s letter that say how much groundwork has led to the unifying ceasefire resolution publicly supported by hundreds now before the council.

    Ken’s letter is a sole voice claiming division that ignores that the council already passed a resolution condemning Hamas’s violence after October 7 and does not need to do so a second time.

    I would also refer Joe to Leyla Moushabeck’s letter in the Indy that explains why this a local issue. Among those reasons are that violence against Arab Americans since October 7 have occurred in liberal college towns like ours, our tax dollars are being spent on this, a rising number of U.S. towns are passing similar resolutions in a movement we can be part of, and Amherst marginalized groups are looking for the town to show support.

  7. How about the Town Council focuses on town problems–
    * School funding
    * Equity issues in the schools
    * Library Funding
    * Other funding issues
    * Potholes
    * CRESS
    * Inadequate affordable housing
    * Police leadership
    * etc. etc.
    I certainly did not vote for town council members based on their foreign policy knowledge or expertise. It is hard to imagine that this issue is the best place for councilors to focus their energy. If they prefer international over local matters, perhaps the Amherst Town Council is not the right position for them.

  8. Local people with family and friends in the area of this conflict must be terribly worried and rightly so. This makes this conflict an issue for locals. It would be a local issue if the Town Council had the responsibility and the means to solve the problem.

    Unleash the curmudgeons! When every Town issue has been addressed and a funding plan has been approved then the politicians can have 10 minutes for a performative act of virtue signaling.

    Does that seem fair?

  9. Joe Cook, I can say that many individuals involved in this effort are absolutely calling and writing our state and federal officials. Many of us, daily. Strange assumption to make… that people who feel passionately about this resolution wouldn’t also be active in other ways.

  10. No such assumption made! I am sure that many people have contacted the officials who have an actual role to play in international affairs. All praise to them!

    Public comment at the meeting was specifically limited in the agenda to matters over which the Council has jurisdiction. Someone on the Council should talk to the Town’s lawyers about what “jurisdiction” means.

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