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Guest Opinion | Jason Moss: City Councils Should Stay Out of the Middle East

Published on Thursday, March 14, 2024 | 6:04 pm

Since October 7, following Hamas’ unprovoked attack on Israel, where terrorists killed over 1200 innocent people and kidnapped 253 people, city councils all across the country have received requests to adopt resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Let that sink in for a moment. People are demanding that city councils, whose public mandate is to be responsible for enacting city policies and laws, weigh in on an international issue as nuanced and complex as the decades-long fight between Israel and Palestinians. These requests require each city, with limited expertise and resources, to address a foreign issue they have no legislative authority over, ultimately taking their attention away from addressing issues that are affecting their city. In essence, city councils are being used to spread anti-Israel sentiment in a large public forum.

This latest effort has now hit Pasadena, with the city council deciding to take up this issue at its March 18 meeting.

While well-intentioned, what city councils fail to recognize is that these resolutions do far more harm than good. Not only do they infer Israel is the root cause of all of the death and destruction in Gaza, they imply that Israel has no interest in peace. Resolutions like this do not account for the fact that if Hamas immediately returned all of the hostages they stole on October 7; the death and destruction would end. Nor do they demand that Hamas stop its actions from preventing the humanitarian aid from reaching the people in Gaza who so desperately need it. These resolutions also tend not to mention that it was Hamas that broke an existing ceasefire on October 6 when they attacked Israel on October 7.

People don’t seem to realize that in this latest round of negotiations, Israel has accepted the terms of a ceasefire laid out by negotiators. But Hamas has continually refused. How can Israel be held responsible for there not being a ceasefire when its adversary continues to prevent it from happening?

Often, unbeknownst to city councils, these ceasefire efforts are a means to a further end. Those who are calling for an immediate ceasefire are using this moment to litigate the past and elevate the ongoing struggle of Palestinians. Many supporters’ ultimate goal is to further alienate Israel and continue to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist through accusations and claims that Israel is an apartheid state or committing genocide. The Jewish community has continued to witness and experience an increase in hate speech and incidents that have targeted Jews these last several months since many people consider Jews to be Israel’s proxies. Thus, these efforts further embolden more hate towards Jews along with those who do not support the ceasefire movement.

I understand that people are looking for ways to make a difference and end innocent lives being lost. However, if our congressional leaders, let alone professional negotiators, who are far more knowledgeable than any of us on this issue and intimately know each of the players at the table and have been in the room for the past several weeks, have been unable to pressure each side to agree to the terms of a ceasefire, what makes Pasadena’s City Council (or any other city council who is considering similar action) think their symbolic gesture will make it happen? It won’t, and these efforts will continue to tear apart the fabric of our society further.

For these reasons (and several others), I urge Pasadena’s City Council, as well as any others considering a resolution of their own, to refrain from supporting these efforts and leaving international issues to the experts.

Jason Moss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, an organization that serves as the Jewish voice for the community, whose mission is to build community by strengthening and enhancing Jewish life within the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.

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