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Burlington City Council and community divided over Israel-Hamas resolutions

Burlington City Hall
Pat Bradley
Burlington City Hall

Things grew heated during Monday’s Burlington, Vermont City Council meeting. Dozens of people called on city leaders to pass a resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas while others questioned why the council was even considering such a measure.

There were two similar resolutions on the council agenda. The first expressed support for the three men of Palestinian descent who were shot in the city on November 25th and their families and praised those who responded. It calls for an “immediate cessation of hostilities and end to this war between Israelis and Palestinians.”

A second resolution focused on solidarity with the shooting victims and implored Vermont’s congressional delegation to do whatever they can to help end the hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

During three hours of public forum, dozens of people called on the council to pass the first resolution, including resident Ashley Smith.

“You must pass the ceasefire resolution. Israel is committing genocide. It is using October 7th as an alibi to carry out preexisting plans for ethnic cleansing.”

Others questioned why Burlington should wade into international affairs. Resident Chiam Lodish was concerned that the resolution would feed divisiveness in the community.

“The resolution shows inaccurate facts and tremendous bias. The Jewish community is dealing with unprecedented levels of anti-Semitism. This proposal will only feed that anti-Semitism and make our community less safe.”

City councilors were divided over the two resolutions. Ward 7 Independent Ali Dieng sponsored and offered impassioned support for the first measure.

“Why do we have the fundamental right to call for a ceasefire? The city of Burlington developed the first ever sister city pact among American, Palestine and Israel communities. Its because of the fact the hatred took place right here in Burlington. Because Muslims and Jews in this community are living in fear.”

Ward 5 Democrat Ben Traverse offered the second resolution, saying the first is too divisive.

“As well intentioned as this resolution may be, for many in our community its words and the rhetoric surrounding it remains hurtful. Many others in our community have reached out to express serious concerns about language in this resolution that they view as maligning the Israeli people. Others have expressed concern about this resolution not also fully condemning Hamas for its ongoing calls for worldwide harm against Jewish people. This resolution is seen by many as running against the grain of unity and if passed will leave many in our community feeling more divided, more unsafe and more unwelcome than they do today.”

A roll call vote on the measures resulted in 6-6 ties, meaning defeat. Pro-Palestinian advocates were enraged and council proceedings were briefly delayed until the nearly two dozen people left the auditorium.

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