Saturday, June 15, 2024

Wilmington council mum on calls to pass Gaza ceasefire resolution

The City of Wilmington has been asked to sign a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

WILMINGTON — Last week, the Wilmington City Council fielded several requests to pass a resolution calling on the federal government to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, humanitarian aid for its refugees and equal rights for Palestinians.

READ MORE: City considers 2.5-cent tax increase, as Skyline Center makes up 10% of budget

Several speakers during council’s Feb. 6 meeting urged the city’s elected officials to pass the statement calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war that began on Oct. 7, 2023. However, city council members have not indicated whether they will take up such a measure. 

The resolution was drafted by a local coalition, ILM for Peace in Palestine. The group supports the nonviolent BDS Palestinian-led movement promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel. The group held a November rally with more than 100 protesters in front of Thalian Hall.

The resolution notes Wilmington’s role as an international shipping port makes it “part of a global system within which aid to Gaza can be transported.”

According to North Carolina Ports spokesperson Elly Cosgrove, there are no exports to Israel through the Port of Wilmington and it has not been involved with aid shipments to Gaza. 

The resolution also emphasizes the local government’s role as advocates for a community, which includes Palestinians, Israelis, Jews and Muslims. Its demands for legislative and policy changes at all levels.

“I’m a Palestinian American, emphasis on the American,” Leo Hussein said told council. “I don’t want my tax money being sent to a government that has to kill 1,000 kids to get one guy. Not while we have so many homeless families in Wilmington in need of housing. We have families that can’t afford medicine and are dying of preventable diseases right here in Wilmington.” 

Hussain’s statement refers to the death toll in Gaza, under control of Hamas.  The Gazan health ministry reports over 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, while another 68,000 have been wounded. The Health Ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures but reports around two-thirds of the Gazans killed were women and children.

The war began when Hamas launched a coordinated attack on Israel, took over a hundred people hostage, and murdered 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials. The state of Israel, with its more sophisticated weaponry and with the United State’s financial backing, has laid siege, mostly through its hundreds of bombings, to Gaza since. 

The country’s stated goal is to destroy Hamas, though that has come with thousands of deaths, most of them civilians who have also been displaced from their homes. 

As reported by NBC, Israeli military officials said at least 233 soldiers have been killed during the ground invasion of Gaza. A high number of those — one-fifth when the total county was 188 casualties — are due to friendly fire, experts saying its one of the highest such percentages in recent military history, according to NPR.

Now, around 1.4 million Gazans brace for a potential invasion in Rafah, many of which were told months ago to move to the southern portion of the enclave to escape the Israeli advance into the territory.

The resolution presented to Wilmington City Council states “hundreds of thousands of lives are at imminent risk if a cease-fire is not achieved and humanitarian aid is not delivered without delay.” It is among several calls for a ceasefire from organizations and leaders from the local to international level.

“This isn’t how war works,” public speaker and Israel/Palestine scholar Skylar Chaney said at the meeting. “This is why experts will call it a genocide.” 

The allegations of genocide have been taken up by the government of South Africa, who instituted proceedings against Israel at the International Court of Justice, alleging genocide. In an interim ruling in January, the court found it is “plausible” that Israel has committed acts that violate the Genocide Convention. It also ordered Israel to ensure “with immediate effect” that its forces not commit any of the acts prohibited by the convention.

Chaney argued the money the federal government provides to Israel could go toward improving education or infrastructure; the United States provided $3.8 billion to Israel in 2023. The Senate has passed an aid bill that would provide $105 billion to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan after a $17.6-billion standalone Israel funding bill failed.

Another speaker, Mychaela Jade, also wanted to connect Wilmington with the Gaza crisis in another way. 

“We hold a special responsibility to not only denounce the coup of 1898 led by white supremacists, who this town currently honors with the fountain on Market Street that murdered and deployed displaced black people, but we also have to denounce Zionist settler colonialism and Palestine which has led to the murder and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from 1948 to now,” Jade said. 

Wilmington City Council would not be the only municipality to face calls for a statement on the war. According to Reuters, around 70 U.S. cities, including Chicago and Seattle, have passed resolutions on the Israel-Gaza war with most calling for a ceasefire. The Raleigh City Council had to adjourn its meeting early last week due to disruptions from protestors criticizing the council’s refusal to vote on a ceasefire resolution. 

It appears Wilmington leaders are not entertaining the action either. Port City Daily reached out to each city council member for their thoughts on the resolution; Council member Clifford Barnett was the only one to respond. 

“I’m gathering more information,” he said.

PCD obtained an email from a Wilmington constituent requesting council oppose signing a statement in support of an Israel-Hamas ceasefire, stating Wilmington has more pressing problems than a conflict 6,000 miles away and the move could be viewed as antisemitic.  

Council member Charlie Rivenbark replied to the email: “I am happy to receive your message. I fully agree with you!!!!!”

City spokesperson Lauren Edwards confirmed to PCD that city staff are not working on a draft resolution for a ceasefire.

[Editor’s Note: The names and spellings of the public speakers have been updated upon the city’s response to PCD’s request for the meeting’s sign-up sheet. The request was made on Feb. 13 and returned on Feb. 21.]


Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com.

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