WEDNESDAY, Feb. 7 — For months, Lansing residents have flooded the public comment portion of City Council meetings asking it to pass a resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
Yesterday, in a special meeting of the city’s Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, chair Brian Jackson and members Trini Lopez Pehlivanoglu and Tamera Carter voted 3-0 to send the one-page resolution, titled “Resolution Calling for a Ceasefire to Preserve Life,” to the full Council, which is expected to take it up for consideration on Monday night.
The committee did not recommend what action it would like the Council to take.
Other cities in Michigan, including Detroit and Ann Arbor, have passed similar resolutions in recent months. Elsewhere, large cities like Chicago and Seattle have joined the fold. On Jan. 10, East Lansing’s City Council rejected a similar resolution in a 4-1 vote.
The group Lansing for Palestine submitted a ceasefire resolution to the Council on Jan. 8 that was originally three pages. That group also created a petition requesting that the city of Lansing call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, which had garnered 865 signatures at the time this story was published.
Nineteen speakers attended the committee meeting. Most of them strongly supported the resolution, but East Lansing resident Nigel Paneth, a pediatrician and professor emeritus of epidemiology at Michigan State University, suggested two changes.
“I have very strong ties to the Jewish people and to the people of Israel,” Paneth, who is Jewish, said, noting that he has relatives who were killed in the Holocaust.
“The violence in Israel and Gaza should stop. And calling for a ceasefire is one way to do this. However, it’s critical that a ceasefire must be binding on both sides in a conflict. The present resolution, in my view, is very close to being balanced, nonpartisan, and free of any attempt to seek political advantage. What I hope we can craft here is a moral statement that reflects the views and feelings of all citizens in the Lansing area,” Paneth said.
The first revision he suggested was to “acknowledge the reality, even if insufficient, that supplies including food and fuel are, in fact, entering Gaza.” The draft of the resolution available at the meeting included a section that stated, “Gaza has been effectively cut off from basic life necessities.”
Paneth also wanted to amend another section that cites the bombing of “critical infrastructure throughout Gaza” to mention attacks on Israel.
“While it’s certainly true that Gaza is under assault — I’m not denying that — it’s also true that Israel is the recipient of incessant rocket fire coming from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and even from Hamas’ Islamic Jihad to this day in Gaza, leading to deaths and the mass displacement of Israeli civilians,” Paneth said.
Lansing resident Tarek Al-Zoughbi, who identified himself as Palestinian American, said that he finds himself “in an awkward position.”
“My tax dollars go to fund the killing and genocide of my people. I’m also in the position where I am a full American, but with the United States’ quote-unquote ‘greatest ally’ in the Middle East, my U.S. status is not recognized and has not been recognized,” Al-Zoughbi said.
“We don’t know what the new agreement between Biden’s administration and the Israeli authorities will bring,” he added, “but I grew up with an American mother with no Palestinian citizenship who, for 32 years of marriage to my Palestinian father, did not have the right to live with us in Palestine.”
Al-Zoughbi also noted that Palestinians are now being “blamed for their own resistance to settler colonial occupation.”
“In 2024, we should have the knowledge that allows us to know that war isn’t the answer, that there are other solutions,” he said. “I call upon this body to respect its constituents’ desires and call for the immediate end of the occupation and to end our complicity, including through funding, to the Israeli occupation.”
Ahead of the vote, Jackson explained some of his revisions to the original, community-drafted document. He notably removed references to any state actors, like Israel or Hamas.
“I don’t think parties necessarily need to be named when we’re talking about preserving life because that’s what our resolution is,” he said.
Jackson also admitted that he’d initially questioned whether the resolution qualified as a City Council responsibility.
“I didn’t initially see this conflict as a city of Lansing matter, so I was very hesitant to, in my official capacity, talk about it other than conversations with my family and friends,” he said.
But community activism he’s seen since and discussions with constituents were crucial in convincing Jackson that the resolution should “at least be put forward” to Council.
Jackson said he first brought the draft to the Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which he chairs, because he “thought it would be a good place for discussion and to talk about the language and the drafts.”
Lopez Pehlivanoglu noted that the resolution had gone through several revisions.
“I acknowledge how difficult that can be to craft something with the understanding that not everyone may be satisfied by this. It may not be perfect to everyone, but I know that it has diligently been worked on and revised,” she said.
“I don’t think everybody will be satisfied. I wouldn’t necessarily be satisfied if I was a Jewish-American or Israeli American or a Palestinian-American because of the strong feelings and historical context,” he said. But he said it was his duty to do what he could to bring the resolution before the full Council.
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